Saturday, 25 February 2012

Africa: Parting the Waters.

[At the turn of the New Millennium in January 2000, I wrote an introspective letter to a good friend of mine, and on re-reading it, I thought the thoughts God prompted me to share with her were worthy of wider circulation. So I circulated the excerpt of the letter posted below]


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Africa: Parting the Waters
By Njonjo Mue

But let justice roll on like a river,
and righteousness like a never-failing stream!
                                                                                                Amos 5: 24

I wonder how often we ask ourselves if there is any rhyme or reason to the unfolding of events on our continent of Africa and whether God cares. If you are a Christian, like me, you must be daily faced with the dilemma of trying to reconcile the gloomy clouds of despair that seem to have conspired to descent upon our skies on the one hand, and on the other, the lofty promises of an all-loving, all-powerful God who seems to have altogether forsaken His African children.  Reproduced hereunder is part of a letter I wrote to a friend in January 2000 wondering what the future held for us and for our continent at the dawn of the 21st Century.

I strongly believe that this century is the African Century. But as I look at our country and continent, I find it difficult to see how this wasteland can be turned into the oasis of peace and prosperity that God has promised. See the challenges of poverty, hunger, HIV /AIDS, unemployment, illiteracy, etc. Most troubling, we have a whole generation of young people in Kenya today who are growing up without much hope – and this is more dangerous than the worst scourge; for without hope there can be no future, where there is not vision, people perish.

I so much want to be part of the developing of a new vision for our country and continent. I cry out to God for a fresh anointing; to give us divine strategies and to show us His way forward. I do not seek to go and work for the Lord, but rather that He would open our eyes and show us where He is already at work and invite us to join Him, for He has already heard the cry of His people who are in bondage.

My heart is heavy as I look around our continent: war and conflict violently disrupt the lives of innocents in the Congo, Angola, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan, Burundi and Sierra Leone; famine is the order of the day in many countries, including Kenya; hunger a constant companion to children across the land; AIDS is wiping us out by the millions and ravaging fragile economies across the continent, leaving orphans to fend for themselves and frail grandmothers to look after helpless grandchildren; crime and corruption are eating away at the soul of our continent and nibbling at the heart of our nation; and responsible political leadership is a concept still alien to Africa. At the close of the 20th Century, we touched the nadir of despair and darkness had fallen across the land.

Does God care?

It is difficult not to ask oneself, Does God care? How can a God who cares just watch as we are ravaged and defiled by enemies within and without? How can a God who cares watch thousands of amputees, victims of the Angolan civil war, hobble about in the battlefield in search of food, and not be moved to stop the senseless slaughter of innocents? How can a God who cares look nonchalantly from His high heaven at fresh brains pouring out of the skull of a murdered18-month old victim of the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict? How can He fail to prevent the brutal mutilation of two-year old children in Freetown, Sierra Leone, or the slashing open of the stomach of a pregnant young mother my marauding goons who want to find out the sex of the child she is carrying in her womb? Can a caring almighty God stand by and watch close to a million of the creation He proclaims to love brutally murdered in a few weeks in Rwanda because they belonged to wrong tribe; or refuse to intervene in the daily chaos that has become Somalia; or fail to comfort the victims of ethnic violence in Kenya and to confront their tormentors?

The toughest job at the close of the 20th Century must have been that of missionaries to Africa. For how could they assert that God was love to the victims of all this brutal hatred?

I struggle with these questions myself everyday. I search the scriptures that I may understand the paradox of an all-loving God but One who will not always intervene in the face of evil, pain and injustice. Though such scriptures as Psalm 73 have been a great source of comfort, I cannot say that I fully understand His ways.

But C.S. Lewis gives an insight into the paradox. He says that though God is sovereign and can stop all pain and suffering in an instant, He is not a ‘Sugar Daddy’ giving His children all that they demand instantly and without delay. His highest motivation when working in and through our lives in not that we be happy. His highest motivation is love – that we be loving and loveable, for that is what makes us truly human and truly His. In this refining process, pain in inevitable.

Lewis concludes poignantly: “We are blocks of stone out of which our Creator curves the forms of men [and women]. The blows of His chisel, that hurt us so much, are the ones that make us perfect.”

Out of the ashes…

But while God is keen to see us grow up and be refined by fire, He is neither blind to injustice nor deaf to the cry of His children. History has shown Him intervening time and again on the side of the oppressed. God is not neutral in the face of injustice. He throws in His lot decisively with the ‘least of these’.

And this is what makes me assert that, despite all that we see around us, this will still be the African Century!

The pain we feel and see; the evil ravages of war, poverty and disease; the daily indignity we suffer through hunger and famine, are but the pangs of childbirth. And out of the ashes of our painful past, a new Africa will begin to arise. For surely God cannot have intended that His black children shall forever be held in servitude, tossed hither by torrents of oppression, and thither by waves of despair. And I believe that God is looking for men and women completely sold out to Him to whom He can entrust the task of walking up to the Pharaohs of our age with the simple but profoundly divine command, “Let my people go!”

Nor are the Pharaoh’s merely the Moi’s and Mugabe’s, the Chiluba’s and the Jammeh’s – for these are largely puppets of an inherently unjust international order that is designed to keep the children of Africa in perpetual subjugation. We need to go beyond the deadly marionettes and confront the puppet masters; we need to master the courage to scale the citadels of the gods of capitalism – the World Bank and IMF and the World Trade Organization. We need to deliver the same message to these and their agents – “Thus sayeth the Lord, ‘Let my people go!’”

Our land of promise

It took the children of Israel 40 years to get from Egypt to the Promised Land. The journey could have been accomplished in 11 days. But while God had taken them out of Egypt in a day, it took Him a whole generation to take Egypt out of them. And of the lot who had crossed the Red Sea, only two – Joshua and Caleb – crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. All the others had been born and bred in the wilderness. They had only heard of slavery and Egypt through stories told by parents and grandparents as they journey through the desert. Their reality had been the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night; manna made to order and bitter waters made sweet; and countless other demonstrations of God’s faithfulness and love as they journeyed further from Egypt and closer to the Promised Land.

In the same way, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the children of Africa crossed their Red Sea from the slavery of colonial rule, but it has taken a generation of wandering in the desert for God to remove the slave mentality from them. Today, a new generation stands on the banks of the Jordan ready to part the waters and to cross into the Land of Promise. God has promised to give us the Land; are we ready to go in and possess it?

We recently sent out some spies and many came back with some scary stories: “The land is flowing with milk and honey alright,” they tell us. “It is full of talented children and hard-working people; ‘tis rich in natural wealth and truly beautiful to behold. See the breathtaking picture of the Rift Valley, Table Mountain, Victoria Falls; see the diamonds of South Africa and the oil of Angola; see the lush tea of Limuru and the soda ash of Magadi; see the beautiful generosity of its hospitable people.”

“But,” our spies cautioned just as we began to celebrate. “The people who dwell there are giants – the economies have collapsed, corruption is out of control, the pot-holes swallow cars and their occupants whole, dictators brook no opposition and lash out swiftly and mercilessly at them that would dare to oppose them, and centuries of oppression have left us drifting rudderless without knowing who we are and where we are going.”

In a word, our spies came back with this report: “We saw these giants and we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so did we appear to them.”

O, if only the Lord would provide just two who – like Caleb and Joshua – would say, “If the Lord has given the Land to us, let us go in and get it without further ado!” Such will be the General who will lead the army that will sing in the words of the old hymn:

An army of ordinary people
A Kingdom where love is the key
A city a light to the nations
Heirs to the promise are we
A people whose life is in Jesus
A nation together we stand
Only by grace are we worthy
Inheritors of the Land

A new dawn is coming
A new age to come
When the children of promise
Shall stand together as one
A truth long neglected
But the time has now come
When the children of promise
Shall flow together as one.

And so today, though my heart cries for Africa, my spirit rejoices. For by faith we are marching forward with the confidence of Kilimanjaro and the dogged determination of the Nile, to take back all that has been stolen from us over the centuries.

God is on our side. This is our Century. Our time has come!!

Njonjo Mue
Johannesburg
January 2000

Friday, 24 February 2012

Makofi ya Kilo to Njonjo Mue! - A Tribute by Onyango Oloo

[On 2 December 2004, following my arrest for jumping over the fence of Parliament and plucking a pennant flag off a minister's limousine, a veteran Kenyan activist Onyango Oloo, then in exile in Montreal Canada, wrote the following tribute on his blog, Kenya Democracy Project (http://demokrasia-kenya.blogspot.com/2004/12/makofi-ya-kilo-to-njonjo-mue.html ) .]



THURSDAY, DECEMBER 02, 2004


MAKOFI ya KILO to Njonjo Mue!

Mkono wa Pongezi from Onyango Oloo in Montreal

1.0. Njonjo Mue Should Be Made a CHIEF of the Golden Heart

The highest award one can be awarded for distinguished national service in Kenya is the Chief of the Golden Heart.

Jamhuri Day is literally TEN DAYS away so I think this gives President Mwai Kibaki ample time to REVISE his list of the 2004 honorees at Kenya’s 41st “independence” celebrations.




Njonjo Mue definitely should TOP that list.

2.0. The Kenyan Slap Heard Around The World


Even over here in Montreal, tens of thousands of miles from Nairobi, I said “Ouch!” even as I added “Yes! Hapo Hapo! Add Him!! Mwongeze!”

Njonjo Mue should be decorated, not incarcerated, for his patriotism.

Instead, he should be feted and showered with accolades.

Giriama men should be flapping their shoulders as they peform a vigorous sengenya routine in his honour. Luo men should be writhing in the laterite soils of Asembo and Luanda Dudi as they go into a delirious trance amidst a joyful ohangla number; Somali women should assemble in Garissa, resplendent in the silky multi-coloured flowing gowns staging one of their unforgetaable numbers while their Swahili sisters from Sarigoi na Mji wa Kale should be gyrating with verve as they do a chakacha dance; Where are the Kings of Esikuti from Eshirotsa and Ikomero? Where are the Samburu Morans with their levitations and chants? Where are the Punjabi teenagers with their Bhangra? Where are the transplanted Caucasian Safari Cowboys of Kabete and Karen with their Line Dancing as they do a rousing rendition of Glen Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy? Joseph Kamaru where are you when your country needs you? And O Kalenjin Sisters, are your lyrical fountain pens running dry of fresh inspiration? Do we have to drive down to Keroka to grab the strappling Gusii lads for this momentous occasion? Where is Ndarling P, Suzzana Owiyo and Eric Wainana when you need them? Come one, come all, let us all sing the praises of the one and only Njonjo Mue!

School children should be encouraged to enter into a country-wide competition to see which school composes the best tribute to this thirtysomething son of the soil. I mean, it is not every week that a Njonjo Mue just shows up on the national landscape. The Njonjo Mues of Kenya are rare- they are like the Pio Pintos of the sixties, the JM Kariukis, Marie Seroneys, Chelagat Mutais and George Anyonas of the seventies and the Karimi Nduthus, Okong'o Araras, Tirop Kiturs and Wafula Bukes of the eighties and the Amanya Wafulas and Dorcas Atienos of the twenty first century.

What am I yabbering about?

First of all, I am NOT yabbering. Or yammering for that matter.

I am talking of the KENYAN SLAP ECHOING AROUND THE DUNIA.

Njonjo Mue clearly knew what he was doing, as he explained in court. He clearly took the “insane” label and flung it contemptously back at his accusers and his own eloquent words suffice.


3.0. Who is Njonjo Mue?


Far from being a mugoroki or wakanyuge,
Njonjo Mue owns one of the most brilliant and most militant young Kenyan minds today.

Having distinguished himself academically, Njonjo Mue went on to carve a niche for himself as one of the most prolific, audacious, ferocious and engaging political commentators among the Kenyan Diaspora, first when he was a post graduate student at Oxford University and later when he was redeployed to work in South Africa with the renowned international human rights body Article 19. As indicated in the link above, Njonjo was the youngest ever recipient of the jurist of the year award given out by the Kenyan section of the International Commission of Jurists.

Many Kenyans abroad and online are very familiar with his writings and campaigns.

Here is an Open Letter he wrote to former President Daniel arap Moi in 1999.

We associate Njonjo very much with the phrase
the "Uhuru Generation".

And who has forgotten the clever word play in the
the BOMB campaign- as in, Bring Our Money Back? This was long before the issue was mainstreamed by folks and contemporaries like anti-corruption czar John Githongo.

And Njonjo Mue anticipated the blog phenomenon when he was one of the leading lights behind Africa Wired web site several years ago.

At the academic and civil society level, Njonjo has collaborated with others to produce fine papers like this one that is available on PDF format.


4.0. A Dramatic Return to the Front Pages


Just this last weekend (November 27th, 2004) Njonjo Mue unleashed the following ultimatum that was circulated very widely across a whole range of Kenyan discussion forums:


In the matter of the National Assembly of Kenya:

RETRENCHMENT, RECALL AND EVICTION NOTICE

To all Members of the Ninth Parliament, TAKE NOTICE:

We the people of Kenya hereby charge and convict you of the following high crimes and misdemeanours committed against the people of Kenya:

1.THAT in December 2002, you rode into power based on a collective lie, to wit, that you belonged to one political party and would work as one entity for the common good of our country. This has since been proved to have been a blatant fraud committed on the Kenyan people.

2.THAT you gave a series of undertakings and made solemn promises to the Kenyan people prior to the said election only one of which you have bothered to implement satisfactorily.

3.THAT you placed your own interests above the interests of fellow Kenyans, taking away necessities from the masses in order to give luxuries to the classes by, inter alia, awarding yourselves salary increments to the tune of KShs. 500,000/- and KShs.3.3 million for car purchase.

4.THAT the Opposition in Parliament has chosen to remain weak and ineffective, voting with the government, not on matters of national interest, but on those questions, such as salary increments, that benefit them personally. The Opposition cannot therefore provide any viable alternative to the government’s obvious poor performance.

5.THAT you have manifestly failed to deliver to Kenya a new Constitution and have instead resorted to a deliberate game of hide and seek that has left everybody confused and exhausted.

6.THAT you have shown total disrespect to your employers by constantly fighting in public, blatantly lying to them and spending their hard earned money gallivanting all over the country in cheap popularity contests, instead of focusing on spearheading genuine efforts to revive the fortunes of our land.

7.THAT having totally lost direction on matters of governance, you have abdicated your leadership roles and are now busy cobbling up tribal alliances for the sole purpose of hoodwinking the Kenyan people into returning you to power in 2007.

8.THAT you have not taken your work seriously as demonstrated by the ubiquitous lack of quorum in the august House.

9.THAT you have failed to protect the people of Kenya against rampant crime, especially the brutal rape of women and children, widespread murder and rampant car-jacking; and your fight against corruption is a sham and a mockery which consumes huge public resources without any visible results.

10.THAT you have been compromised by big business through improper and illegal entertainments and other undeclared consideration to unduly influence you to vote in their favour in total disregard of the public interest.

It is commonly assumed that you have until December 2007 to get your act together. This assumption is false. This country does not have three years to wait and see whether at some point you shall come to your senses. All indications so far are that you shall not.

The problems facing this country are many. Their name is Legion. And they cannot be resolved with a political leadership that, when not being wined and dined by Tobacco companies at the Coast, is content to stagger from pillar to post on almost all important issues of the day without proffering a coherent vision for the future of this great Republic.

This House of Parliament does not belong to you – the 222 members who currently occupy it. It belongs to the Kenyan people. They, in good faith, gave you temporary occupancy for a very specific purpose – to serve them in making laws “for the welfare of society and the just government of men and women.” In doing this, you have manifestly failed.

For these reasons, we the people of Kenya hereby retrench and recall you and require you to vacate our House of Parliament within twenty-one days of the date of this notice. You should surrender all public property in your possession to the Clerk of the National Assembly who is hereby instructed and authorised to process your terminal dues.

Dated this 27th day of November 2004.

For and on behalf of
the people of Kenya

NJONJO MUE



Reading the above one sees the LOGICAL sequence of events that led to Njonjo Mue leaping over a fence, grabbing a pennant from a NARC fat cat and later on kindly applying some vigorous massage therapy to the pleasantly surprised face of an unsuspecting assistant minister.

5.0. Nothing “Insane” About Standing Up Against Corruption, Sloth and Repression


Njonjo Mue’s actions are a manifestation of POLITICAL LUCIDITY of the highest order. In my humble opinion, I think he should be appointed the National Peace Coordinator because his slap, if taken WITHIN THE CORRECT CURRENT AFFAIRS CONTEXT is a supreme act of kindness that has largely gone unrecognized.

President Kibaki should go to that wine cellar in his State House palace and take out a vintage bottle of the best Kenyan Chang’aa (Five Star Export Brand Circa 1976, the older the mvinyo the better ama?) order a stretch limo to dash to Kamiti with a tuxedo suit and a bow tie and freshly pressed shirt, with the best akala shoes from downtown Masaku and welcome him to his sebule saying:

“Heko! Heko! Ndugu Njonjo Mue Makofi Kwako Kijana! Kofi Lako Has Woken US ALL UP!”

The Kenya Democracy Project will NOT JOIN in the demonization of Njonjo Mue based on the blatant disregard for his privacy that the Kenyan print and electronic media displayed by unleashing his alleged medical records. It does not really matter if it turns out that Ndugu Njonjo has an underlying mental health issue.

When he slapped the minister in question, he could not have been more fully in control of his mental faculties. And his words in court yesterday were DEFINITELY NOT THE GIBBERISH OF A RAVING MANIAC.

We stand by Njonjo Mue and

DEMAND HIS IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE.


Like we said, he should instead be made CHIEF of the Golden Heart, Kenya’s highest national award.

Enuff Sed.


Onyango Oloo
Secretary,
Kenya Democracy Project
Montreal, Quebec
 

Kenya at War

[In late 2001, following the September 11th terrorist attacks in the US, I wrote the following article reminding Kenyans that we too were under attack and calling on us to mobilize all our forces to defend ourselves and our beloved country. Things have moved on somewhat since 2001. Moi is no longer President, neither is George W. Bush. Kenya has a new Constitution, but fundamentally, there are still existential threats that confront us, and the warning contained in this article is as applicable today as it was 11 years ago. ]


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Kenya is at war

By Njonjo Mue
19 November 2001.

Kenya is at war. 

It is a startling statement to have to make and I know it does sound alarmist, but hear me out. No, we do not go to bed with the sound of gunfire ringing in our ears and we do not see troops marching on our streets or bombs falling from the sky. But Kenya is at war.

Those on Ground Zero in Nairobi, our villages and small towns have been living on a war footing for so long that they have come to accept it as normal; to grin and bear it; and to declare to themselves and to others that it is their fate; that God ordained it for the black person to suffer. Besides, we all know that society has to make sense and so whatever evidence we come across that ours doesn't make sense has somehow to be internally denied – by government, by the media and ultimately by ourselves.

We have come to accept that somehow all those children living rough on our streets surviving on sniffing toxic substances are a normal part of living in an urban society; we have come to accept that all those young 
mothers sending their toddlers to beg money from hungry and angry passers-by are a normal part of city life; we have come to accept that all the thousands of workers who are turning up to work for a normal day only to find a thank you note and a terminal dues cheque are a normal part of capitalism at work; we have come to 
accept that the scenes of our alienated youth burning down dormitories or taking to the streets is a normal part of the 21st Century academic experience. We have somehow convinced ourselves that terrorism is defined as a couple of passenger jets flying into a couple of flashy buildings on a clear autumn morning in a faraway 
land of opulence, while overlooking the real terrorism that we daily encounter on the street, in our homes, at the hands of our government, the police, our public transport operators, our spouses, our partners, our parents and each other.


Kenya is at war. 

A significant minority of us have access to the Internet, so it is not inappropriate to ask you to follow me to another battle zone. Take a moment to visit Kenyan websites – Kenyaonline, Rcbowen, Kenyaniyetu.com, Mashada.com, and a host of other discussion groups frequented by our angry brothers and sisters and you will be horrified by the amount of verbal violence that you will find there. Few meaningful discussion takes place before quickly degenerating into a tirade of verbal abuse. We seem to have lost our ability to engage each other on issues without descending into tribal name-calling and sectarian victimisation. And these are the educated among us! Even living abroad (most participants are Kenyans in the Diaspora) hasn't quite exposed us to new ways of thinking, of solving our problems. It only seems to have given new life to our worst sin. 
Unrestrained by the civility imposed upon us when we meet face to face, we have become cyber-tribalists, quickly labelling each other –"Kikuyus are this, Luhyas are that!" There is little engagement on the myriad challenges collectively facing us. Our country swings in the balance, yet the children our parents sacrificed their all to educate and send abroad have become warmongers in cyberspace, offering nothing but hatred and petty prejudice against the tribal "Other" and against women. What betrayal!


Kenya is at war. 
We have privatised the coercive forces of the state as powerful individuals have mobilised unemployed youths into private armies. Mungiki and Kamjesh fight it out on the streets; the police cower behind garbage heaps coming out during breaks in the fighting to collect the bodies of the dead. The young men are fighting over 
Matatu routes, we are told, over who will extort what from PSV owners. In these violent Summit Talks, the matatu owners are represented, powerful politicians are represented, the government is represented, but who, pray tell, is representing the hapless commuter? No one. The poor mother has to walk long distances through the battle zones to get to work while the combatants sort out the crucial question of how they will share the spoils.

No, you don't have to go to Kabul, Jalalabad or Kandahar to find terrorism. We have plenty of it right here at home. For terror is not about what they do to buildings and aeroplanes, it is about what they do to our minds. And government, Mungiki, Kamjesh, and a host of other unworthies have wormed their way into our craniums and lodged fear in our souls. They whisper violence and thereby paralyse a whole populace into pitiful complacency as thugs and murderers take over our streets. It is they, rather than the Son of Laden, who have changed our way of life. September 11 really has nothing to do with me, despite what the media and would have us believe. What happens on Matatu termini in Dandora does have everything to do with me! I do not fly from the East Coast to the West Coast on American Airlines, I commute from Town to Umoja on a Matatu. And before the President goes calling on George W Bush to discuss the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, let him call on David Mwenje and Fred Gumo to sort out our own matatu madness. That is what we elected him for!


Kenya is at war. 

And all around us, the vanguards of justice have abandoned their posts and fled, leaving hyenas to look after lambs. Look at the shameful behaviour of so-called learned friends in our highest courts. The evidence must be denied, you see, but it is clear that even our be-robed and bewigged men and women of the Bench are running out of ideas. First it was the Constitutional Court decision that terminated the operations of the Anti Corruption Authority last December. What a travesty! And just as we began to think that we had seen the worst of it, the judges struck back again early this week, when the Constitutional Court terminated corruption charges against Minister Kipng'eno Arap Ng'eny saying that it was unfair to try him nine years after the offence took place. The court suddenly remembered that there was a bill of rights, which was there to 
protect individuals such as the minister against harassment by his cabinet colleague, the Attorney General. Two points to note here: first, there is no statute of limitations on criminal cases and anyone can be charged at any time as long as evidence is available; secondly, this same court has denied the protection of the bill of 
rights to thousands of citizens who were detained, tortured and killed by the State. What happened in court this week is a shameful travesty. I shall copy this article to the Chief Justice and the Attorney General and I challenge them to charge me with scandalising the court. This judiciary doesn't need any help scandalising itself. It is already doing a spending job of it without any outside assistance!


Kenya is at war. 

Not just with its present, but with its future. It is said that if people start to doubt your sanity, then persist in your madness and they will start thinking that perhaps it is not madness after all, but is a special kind of genius. Our government seems to have caught on. For why, pray tell, would any government decide to excise 10% of 
our miserable forest cover when we have so recently experienced the havoc caused by a lack of clear environmental policies. Minister Nyenze gazetted a notice in February that he intended to degazette 170,000 acres of forest and asked for public feedback. Predictably there was an outcry, which the government characteristically ignored and last month, his successor, Minister Katana Ngala, confirmed the excision. There is absolutely no logic in this; indeed it is a looming tragedy. I am quietly hoping that it is all part of a ploy in the succession game to give the President a chance to intervene personally and overrule his ministers and thereby score some points – forgiveness points – so that when we eventually judge him for his many sins, we shall at least remember that he saved our forests. But this I know is wishful thinking.

Back overseas, where the great and the good do dwell, fear has swept across the land as a number of the sons and daughters of the soil have been apprehended and are threatened with being brought back to the soil, falling from grace to grass as it were. You see many of the children we sent abroad to study never stepped inside a classroom – except perhaps to wash it before quickly proceeding to the supermarket, the hospital or the fast-food restaurant to do similar menial jobs. Many have overstayed their visas and become undocumented migrant labourers. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with that. Our parents fought for independence so that if I wanted to do a cleaning job, I could do it without anyone's permission. 

What disturbs me is how we carry on the lie that the places of our sojourn abroad are a land of milk and honey. We slave away our lives and project the image of comfort and opulence to those we left behind thereby enticing our younger brothers and sisters with the lie that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. How many of us tell the whole story to our friends and family back home? We prefer to send glossy pictures of ourselves washing our car, relaxing in our tastefully furnished living rooms, or playing in the park on a warm summer evening. Few speak of the crippling credit card debts, working impossible hours, months of loneliness and years of alienation; leave alone the heartache of trying to proclaim your humanity to a racist society where the glass ceiling is so firmly embedded above you that you can only go so far no matter what your talents and qualification. 

September 11 continues to reverberate in the hearts of many of our countrymen and women not because one of these days they might be travelling on an unlucky plane or that they might be working in a hapless skyscraper on a clear Tuesday morning but because the Immigration and Naturalisation Service has suddenly woken up from a long slumber and is likely to come knocking and asking for papers. I do not mean this in any malicious or condescending sense, but in July 2000, I spoke to Kenyans in California and asked them to get more involved in solving the problems of our country because their comfortable abode would not remain comfortable for long. My dismal foreboding has been vindicated. It is time for Kenyans abroad to do their part in fighting the war against the terrorism at home; for like it or not, we have no other home but Kenya.

Back at Ground Zero - the City in the Sun - the war is raging on. We started out fighting the three enemies of poverty, hunger and disease, but when that war started looking unwinable, we simply turned on each other. They lied to us when they said that Kenya was a peaceful country. What they meant was that we were all so scared of causing a scene in public that we never stand up for our rights. The problem, you see, is that we do everything we can to avoid confrontation. When a Matatu tout pushes me about, arbitrarily increases the fare, blasts my eardrums out with his music or suddenly changes the route to suit himself, I tell myself, well, it is just a 20 minute ride anyway, or it is just a 5 shilling difference, or I shall just be five minutes late getting home today. No big deal. 

But it is a big deal, for human dignity is a zero sum game. If I don't demand my rights and dignity in public, I shall take it out on my wife and children in private. If I just take it when that man jumps the queue at the post office, it shall come out against some innocent person at a different time. It is called justice; it is an intricate part of our make up. And when I am dehumanised in one place, it comes out in another place. So let us not fool ourselves. It is not the magnitude of the indignity that matters, it is the affront to my humanity which is caused by any form of injustice or violation, however seemingly minor. For you see, we are all rational beings and anything we go through must be rational or it shall provoke an irrational reaction, delayed and against people who had nothing to do with the initial injustice. And it will fan the flames of war that engulf us.


Kenya is at war. 

Our generals have by and large abdicated. They no longer give guidance as to how we are to fight this war to win. They are busy sharing the spoils – no, not the spoils, but our supplies; those meager resources we carried with us to the battlefield. Our generals have divided the garment that covered our nakedness amongst themselves and are now inviting their sons to help themselves to the dregs while there is yet time before the whole edifice comes crumbling down. We have been abandoned, are ill equipped and outnumbered. But we must regroup and fight on, for this is a war that we cannot afford to lose. It is a war for our survival as a people, as a nation and as a race.


Kenya is at war.

But who shall silence the guns? Who shall nurse the wounded? Who shall feed the orphan? And who shall help us find the way to peace; not just peace but a lasting peace with honour?

Ourselves. Each one of us must start considering ourself a volunteer in the army of ordinary people for peace. The terrorists in our midst seek to intimidate us into doing nothing about our pitiful situation. Their greatest weapons are not planes flying into buildings. Their most lethal weapons are deception and fear. But we must refuse to be slaves to fear. We must live our humanity with dignity. We must take the time to be rational in all our deeds, to explain our actions to ourselves and to each other. We must make sense of our society, interpreting events for ourselves as we see them and in the context of our lived experience. We must stop letting politicians or the media think for us – we must think for ourselves and for them and guide their action! We must stop being judgemental, for in a very real sense, we are all victims - even those who wound and maim us, those who steal from the mouths of babes and those who let them go scot-free in the name of justice – we are all victims of structures and systems that we found here and that we faithfully serve without 
question. We are captives of our own insecurity, realising that things have gone dreadfully wrong but lacking the wisdom or the courage to start reversing the decay.

And what can we learn from September 11 and all that? 

We do not know what exactly happened on those four jets on that clear Tuesday morning; we may never know. But if the account of events is true a number of angry young men got completely fed up with their lot in life and decided to sacrifice their all to do something about it. This is what we Kenyans must do. We must become completely fed up with being pushed about and laughed at and being treated as children of a lesser god. We must put our lives on the line for our cause – the rebuilding of the soul of our nation. We must be totally committed and totally focused and we must use everything at our disposal to reverse the decay. 

The only difference between us and the principal actors of September 11 is that where they were willing to die and to kill for their cause, we must be willing to live and to heal for our own; while they were willing to destroy buildings to make their point, we must be willing to rebuild a nation to make our own; while their project took months to prepare and minutes to execute, ours must take minutes to conceive and years to execute. For we must get to work right away. Every moment of delay pushes us ever closer to the brink.

I would like to pretend that if we heed this call it will mark the dawn of a new era for Kenya. But vested interests don't so easily give in to a new dispensation. I have to be honest and declare that we are only just approaching the midnight hour. Things will get worse before they get better. Many gallant fighters will fall. But we shall get through our midnight by focusing relentlessly on the vision of a new Kenya – one where justice becomes truly our shield and defender. 

This vision will be the magnet that will draw us to our enduring freedom as we embrace one another and as we work and rebuild together. Then we will become eyewitnesses to the miracle of our rebirth as the dark days of despair slowly begin to give way to our season of hope

Amkeni ndugu zetu!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Recall Notice to the 9th Parliament

Soon after the NARC Government came to power following the 2002 election, Kenya was voted the most optimistic nation on earth. But it did not take long for the country to sink to the depths of despair as the lofty promises of the rainbow dream team dissipated into a mere mirage and the political elite descended into the gutter of mudslinging and name calling in the wake of a dishonoured MoU. The only thing the new government seemed agreed upon was the urgent business of raising MPs salaries and processing their car allowances and tax-free mortgages. Corruption skyrocketed with the advent of Anglo Leasing hot on the heels of the yet to be resolved Goldenberg scandal. As usual, it was the ordinary citizen who bore the brunt of the failure of governance, struggling to eke out a living amidst skyrocketing inflation.Rather than merely join in the chorus of disapproval that was taking place in every bar, bedroom and boardroom, I decided to dramatize the outrage most people were feeling but did not know quite know how to express. In late November 2004, after taking two weeks to do a whistle stop tour of all the eight provinces speaking to ordinary people about the performance of their government to ensure that I was not alone in the despondency I felt towards the new government and its broken promises, I drafted a 10 point memorandum of protest addressed to Parliament and posted it on the main entrance of the National Assembly.


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 November 27th, 2004 


In the matter of the National Assembly of Kenya:

RETRENCHMENT, RECALL AND EVICTION NOTICE

To all Members of the Ninth Parliament, TAKE NOTICE:

We the people of Kenya hereby charge and convict you of the following high crimes and misdemeanours committed against the people of Kenya:

1.THAT in December 2002, you rode into power based on a collective lie, to wit, that you belonged to one political party and would work as one entity for the common good of our country. This has since been proved to have been a blatant fraud committed on the Kenyan people.

2.THAT you gave a series of undertakings and made solemn promises to the Kenyan people prior to the said election only one of which you have bothered to implement satisfactorily.

3.THAT you placed your own interests above the interests of fellow Kenyans, taking away necessities from the masses in order to give luxuries to the classes by, inter alia, awarding yourselves salary increments to the tune of KShs. 500,000/- and KShs.3.3 million for car purchase.

4.THAT the Opposition in Parliament has chosen to remain weak and ineffective, voting with the government, not on matters of national interest, but on those questions, such as salary increments, that benefit them personally. The Opposition cannot therefore provide any viable alternative to the government’s obvious poor performance.

5.THAT you have manifestly failed to deliver to Kenya a new Constitution and have instead resorted to a deliberate game of hide and seek that has left everybody confused and exhausted.

6.THAT you have shown total disrespect to your employers by constantly fighting in public, blatantly lying to them and spending their hard earned money gallivanting all over the country in cheap popularity contests, instead of focusing on spearheading genuine efforts to revive the fortunes of our land.

7.THAT having totally lost direction on matters of governance, you have abdicated your leadership roles and are now busy cobbling up tribal alliances for the sole purpose of hoodwinking the Kenyan people into returning you to power in 2007.

8.THAT you have not taken your work seriously as demonstrated by the ubiquitous lack of quorum in the august House.

9.THAT you have failed to protect the people of Kenya against rampant crime, especially the brutal rape of women and children, widespread murder and rampant car-jacking; and your fight against corruption is a sham and a mockery which consumes huge public resources without any visible results.

10.THAT you have been compromised by big business through improper and illegal entertainments and other undeclared consideration to unduly influence you to vote in their favour in total disregard of the public interest.

It is commonly assumed that you have until December 2007 to get your act together. This assumption is false. This country does not have three years to wait and see whether at some point you shall come to your senses. All indications so far are that you shall not.

The problems facing this country are many. Their name is Legion. And they cannot be resolved with a political leadership that, when not being wined and dined by Tobacco companies at the Coast, is content to stagger from pillar to post on almost all important issues of the day without proffering a coherent vision for the future of this great Republic.

This House of Parliament does not belong to you – the 222 members who currently occupy it. It belongs to the Kenyan people. They, in good faith, gave you temporary occupancy for a very specific purpose – to serve them in making laws “for the welfare of society and the just government of men and women.” In doing this, you have manifestly failed.

For these reasons, we the people of Kenya hereby retrench and recall you and require you to vacate our House of Parliament within twenty-one days of the date of this notice. You should surrender all public property in your possession to the Clerk of the National Assembly who is hereby instructed and authorised to process your terminal dues.

Dated this 27th day of November 2004.

For and on behalf of
the people of Kenya

NJONJO MUE 


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

ICJ-KENYA ELECTION CANDIDATE PROFILE


On 21 November 2009, during the 50th Anniversary conference of the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-K), I offered myself as a candidate for a position on the Governing Council of ICJ-K. Below is the Candidate Profile that I circulated to members introducing myself and the agenda I hoped to pursue if elected. The members elected me to a two-year term and re-elected me to a further two-year term on November 2011. 

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ICJ-K COUNCIL ELECTIONS


21st NOVEMBER 2009



CANDIDATE PROFILE
  

NJONJO MUE


CANDIDATE, ICJ-K COUNCIL


On 30th November 2004, a lawyer jumped over the perimeter fence around the private members car park at Parliament buildings and ripped the flag off a cabinet minister’s sleek limousine. He was immediately arrested and charged in court the following day with creating a disturbance in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace. But instead of pleading to the charge, he proceeded to sing the national anthem in Kiswahili and to make a speech in full view of TV cameras, whereupon the presiding magistrate, Aggrey Muchelule, ordered that the lawyer be taken for a psychiatric evaluation. But was the lawyer really mad or was he just mad with the NARC Government? And would you entrust him with a position on the ICJ-K Council. Well, here is your chance to find out. Please read on…


A.     NJONJO MUE – A BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE


Njonjo Mue is a Human Rights Lawyer and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya having been admitted to roll of advocates in 1991. He currently serves as the Head of the Kenya Office of the New York – based International Centre for Transitional Justice which works to promote accountability in post conflict societies by supporting transitional justice mechanisms. Until recently, he worked as the Head of Advocacy at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

He was educated at Alliance High School; the University of Nairobi where he obtained an LL.B; Kenya School of Law; Oxford University, UK, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and studied international law and comparative human rights; Helsinki University in Finland where he obtained a diploma in Contemporary Problems in International Law; and the Nairobi International School of Theology where he obtained an MA in Christian Ministry and Leadership.

He has vast experience in leading successful human rights organizations both in Kenya and abroad. He served as the Head of the Africa Office of ARTICLE 19 – The Global Campaign for Free Expression, in Johannesburg, South Africa; as Regional Director for Panos Eastern Africa based in Kampala, Uganda; and as Executive Director of Christians For a Just Society which seeks to mobilize the Church for social action in Kenya. He also worked briefly as the Head of Policy and Advocacy with World Vision Kenya.

Njonjo is a holder of several leadership and human rights awards, including being named the youngest Jurist of the Year by the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists in 2000 for his commitment to fighting for democracy, human rights and the rule of law; and the Anthony Dzuya Leadership Award by the Young Professionals Forum.

He currently serves on the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee for Kenya, and the Research Ethics Committee of the Aga Khan Hospital University. He is a prolific writer and campaigner on human rights and social justice issues and has spoken to audiences at home and abroad.

Njonjo is keen on citizens’ participation in reform initiatives through legislative advocacy and was a founder member of the Institute of Legislative Affairs on whose Board he currently sits. He is also a Fellow of the International Centre for Transitional Justice.



B.     CRUSADER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

From leading peaceful demonstrations at university to protest the gruesome murder of Dr. Robert Ouko to representing Kenyan youth in celebrating the bicentennial of the French Revolution at a youth conference in France in 1989, to being a founder member and sitting on the advisory board of the Oxford Civil Liberties Society, to taking a leading part in demands for a new constitution in the heady days of “No reforms, No elections!” in the1990’s, Njonjo has given his life to the cause of the fight for human rights.


Engaging the powers
Njonjo kneeling before armed riot police in a nonviolent
pro-reform demonstration at Central Park, Nairobi on
31st May 1997 (Picture courtesy of People newspaper).

Njonjo believes in creative nonviolent action to bring about sustainable social change as well as to highlight injustice. On 31st May 1997, during a rally called by pro-reform activists to press for a new constitution, Njonjo led a group of activists in forming a human shield by kneeling before a fully armed contingent of riot police and GSU personnel to protect their civil society colleagues as they attempted to hold a peaceful rally to press for a new constitution. While the rest developed cold feet, Njonjo was left alone, unarmed, kneeling to face the police. The picture above was carried by ‘The People’ newspaper, the day after the rally was violently disrupted by the police, under the caption, ‘Praying for the Nation.’

Season of discontent

It was the season of discontent. It did not take long for a country that had been voted the most optimistic nation on earth following the NARC victory in 2002 to sink to the depths of despair as the lofty promises of the rainbow dream team dissipated into a mere mirage and the political elite descended into the gutter of mudslinging and name calling in the wake of a dishonoured MoU. The only thing the new government seemed agreed upon was the urgent business of raising MPs salaries and processing their car allowances and tax-free mortgages. Corruption skyrocketed with the advent of Anglo leasing hot on the heels of the yet to be resolved Goldenberg scandal. As usual, it was the ordinary citizen who bore the brunt of the failure of governance, struggling to eke out a living amidst skyrocketing inflation.

Paying the price
Njonjo at the High Court cells, charged with
creating a disturbance in Parliament on
30th November 2004 (Picture courtesy of
Nation newspapers)

Rather than merely join in the chorus of disapproval that was taking place in every bar, bedroom and boardroom, Njonjo decided to dramatize the outrage most people were feeling but did not know quite know how to express. After taking two weeks to do a whistle stop tour of all the eight provinces speaking to ordinary people about the performance of their government to ensure that he was not alone in the despondency he felt towards the new government and its broken promises, Njonjo drafted a 10 point memorandum of protest addressed to Parliament and pasted it on the main entrance of the National Assembly.

A few days later, on 30th November 2004, he scaled the wall of Parliament and took away a pennant flag off a cabinet minister’s limousine to symbolically demonstrate the government’s loss of moral authority to govern. Contrary to press reports that he slapped Assistant Minister George Khaniri in the process, Njonjo’s action was entirely nonviolent as Khaniri himself later confirmed. Njonjo was promptly arrested and charged with creating a disturbance.

“Yes, I am mad!”

When the charge was read out before a packed courtroom and in front of TV cameras, Njonjo opted not to plead, but rather to sing the national anthem to further dramatize the nature of and reason for his nonviolent protest. When the presiding magistrate ordered that he be taken for a psychiatric examination, Njonjo made the following memorable speech:

“Your honour, if in Kenya today it is considered normal for ministers to drive vehicles worth ten million shillings while a family of six in Kibera subsists on forty six shillings a day, then you don’t have to ask a psychiatrist, I will tell you myself, I am mad; if it is considered normal for MPs to be taken to Mombasa on holidays by BAT to be bribed to block tobacco control legislation while our people continue dying of tobacco related ailments, then I am mad; if it is normal for our leaders to traverse the land hurling insults at each other while our people are robbed, raped and murdered, then I am mad; and I take comfort in the fact that I am not the only one, we are millions of mad people who do not want to act normal while watching our country going to the dogs.

“As for the charge before you, your honour, I beseech you not only to find me guilty, but to hand down the harshest sentence permitted by the law.” Njonjo was incarcerated for two weeks before being released on bond. The Attorney General later withdrew the charges, despite the fact that he could not technically do so as Njonjo had already pleaded guilty.

While many dismissed Njonjo’s actions during that November of discontent, a few read it for what it really was, a legitimate and well targeted act of protest against the country’s failing leadership. Writing in an article aptly titled, Kenya – a nation in despair that appeared in a local daily and on the African Economic Analysis blog, one commentator, Michael Mundia Kamau, said:

There is something terribly wrong in this country. There is a devastating and looming crisis in our midst, and direction out of this needs to be established fast. Government and local authority functions have crumbled to the detriment of an entire nation. It is this sheer frustration that drove an exasperated Njonjo Mue to confronting two government ministers on the grounds of parliament on 30th November 2004. Njonjo Mue’s bold and courageous act of confrontation will one day rank alongside that of the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the storming of the Bastille in Paris on July 14th 1789, the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States on December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama and the brave, bold and courageous manner in which civil rights activist James Chaney met his death at the hands of white captors in June 1964 by telling them to their faces, “I aint running”.

After paying tribute to other Kenyans throughout history who had gone against the grain and stood up for what they believed in, the author went on to say:
Njonjo Mue’s bold and courageous act of 30th November 2004 is nevertheless an enviable and inspiring wakeup call to both the entire Kenyan leadership and to the ineffective and heavily compromised Kenyan middle class in deep slumber, a heavily compromised 21st century Kenyan middle class that makes 18th century France’s Marie Antoinette and her callousness, appear saintly. The Kenyan middle class on which the country relies on for direction and intellect is decadent, and hopelessly preoccupied with sex, pleasure, alcohol, flashy cars and flashy cell phones. Fresh impetus and direction needs to be given to the Kenyan dream, struggle and movement, and Njonjo Mue played a shining role in this respect on the 30th November 2004. Sanity and direction urgently require to be restored in this country.
Writing in her weekly column in the regional newspaper, The East African, on 13th December 2004, in an article boldly titled: Bravo, Mue, we all don’t believe in NARC, The Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Muthoni Wanyeki, commented:
I felt the same way on learning that it was actually Njonjo Mue who had scaled the walls of parliament and torn a flag off a government car. Mue was protesting what he felt was our new government’s complete betrayal of all of the ideals, all of the people’s struggles, that brought it into power. His audacity made me feel somewhat gleeful – for I find I have to try harder and harder every day to continue to believe in all of the reforms initiated or promised by the National Rainbow Coalition. And although, unlike Mue, I am dealing with my disillusionment from the comfort of my organised, safe work space and certainly not scaling parliamentary walls, it gives me great pleasure that someone else is. Because I do still believe in dialectics – thesis, antithesis, synthesis. And actions like Mue’s enable, make possible, the kind of actions I contemplate now. Actions like Mue’s highlight, in all the ways that organised advocacy, diplomacy and negotiations of the kind that my organisations do not, the basis on which we are all acting. So, I agree with the National Constitution Executive Council in their calls for all charges against Mue to be dropped on the basis that they constitute legitimate protest – an exercise of his freedom of expression. Dramatic gestures. They have their uses.

Weeping with those who weep

A year later, Njonjo was in the headlines again. This time, as Executive Director of Christians for A Just Society (CFJS), he took on both the Kenyan and the American governments over compensation for victims of the 1998 bomb blast at the US Embassy in Nairobi. Fourteen of the victims who were permanently injured and lost their livelihoods because of the bomb blast had gone on a hunger strike and camped at the August 7th memorial park seeking compensation. Njonjo mobilized CFJS members to donate blankets for the survivors and temporarily moved the offices of CFJS to the Park and spent some nights at the park in solidarity with the survivors.

He led CFJS in collecting signatures for a petition to the US Government for compensation. However when he went to the US embassy to present the petition, he was arrested and charged with creating a disturbance. He was incarcerated at Industrial Area Remand Prison for one month before being discharged.

Although the survivors were violently dispersed after spending 124 days and nights at the park, their campaign maintained momentum. On 7th August 2008, their commemoration ceremony at the Park was attended by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Internal Security and other senior government officials, the first time the government had been represented at the anniversary of the bomb blast in five years. On 9th September 2008, the Chairperson of the August 7th Welfare Association, whom Njonjo had helped in organizing events and writing speeches and memoranda, was honoured with an invitation to address a Symposium on Supporting Victims of Terrorism that was hosted by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, at the United Nations in New York. (See ‘Victims of terrorism share stories at U.N.’ - Los Angeles Times, September 10th 2008,                      ( http://articles.latimes.com/2008/sep/10/world/fg-victims10 ).

Their campaign for compensation continues.  

“I was in prison, and you visited me.”

On 17th November 2008, while working with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Njonjo received a call from an anonymous warder at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison informing him that there had been daylong disturbances at the prison the day before and that one prisoner had been killed. Njonjo immediately drove to the prison and found the prison’s top brass in the process of a major cover-up. Njonjo managed to go into Cell G6 where the body of the dead prisoner was still lying as his fellow inmates refused to let the prison authorities take it fearing that they would be blamed for it while they knew that he had died at the hands of brutal prison warders. In the process of his investigations, Njonjo discovered that prison warders had unleashed brutal violence including scalding inmates with boiling water. But what shocked the nation and the international community beyond was footage of prison warders mercilessly beating naked prisoners which Njonjo smuggled out of the prison and which was aired on TV locally and abroad and led to widespread condemnation of the warders actions including by the Minister of Justice. The officer in charge and several warders were interdicted and several reforms undertaken as a result.

(See ‘Karua condemns torture claims’ - http://www.kbc.co.ke/story.asp?ID=53944
KBC, 19th November 2008; Kenya jail beating to be probed – BBC, 19th November 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7737168.stm; Unrest at Kamiti as prisoner dies – Daily Nation, 18th November 2008, http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/492496/-/tm2v88/-/index.html  )


Fighting the good fight

 Whether engaging in intellectual human rights discourse in the hallowed cloisters of Oxford, representing Kenya in human rights conferences abroad, collecting signatures for human rights petitions in the street, facing off with gun totting and teargas wielding riot police, or exposing brutality in prisons and campaigning for reform, Njonjo’s philosophy has always been that human rights campaigners must choose their battles not only because they can be won, but because they must be fought.  His quest for justice and human dignity has taken him everywhere from the heights of hobnobbing with the great and the good in cocktail parties with ambassadors and cabinet ministers, to the dungeons of gloom in the death traps that are Kenya’s prisons. Wherever the fight has taken him, Njonjo has remained a courageous and consistent crusader and a spokesperson for “the least of these.”


Working together to pursue justice for the poor
Njonjo, second from left, joins other civil society leaders meeting with ICC Prosecutor,
Luis Moreno-Ocampo (centre), at his office in The Hague on September 18, 2009 to press
for justice for victims of post election violence (Picture courtesy of  the Office of the Prosecutor, ICC).



C.     ASSOCIATION WITH ICJ-K

Member in good standing

Njonjo has been a member of ICJ-K since the early 1990s. On November 27th 2004, he was among a small group of jurists to be recognized by ICJ-K for being a member in good standing, and consistent with his commitment to human rights democracy and the rule of law.

Holding the fort

Between 1995 and 1997, he served in the ICJ-K Secretariat as a Programme Officer and was responsible together with the then Executive Director, Connie Ngondi, for starting some of the ICJ-K’s flagship projects such as the Paralegal Programme which is still ongoing as the current Human Rights Education Programme. Between August 1996 and February 1997, Njonjo worked without pay for ICJ-K at a time when it was facing severe financial constraints following the collapse of its banker, the Kenya Finance Bank.

Jurist of the Year

In 2000, ICJ-K named Njonjo Mue Jurist of the Year. The Award is given annually by the ICJ-K to a lawyer who has demonstrated unparalleled courage and determination for the preservation and restoration of human dignity, and realization of the tenets of democracy and the rule of law. At 33, Njonjo is the youngest ever Jurist of the Year in the 16 year history of the award. Writing in the ICJ-K Quarterly Newsletter Issue No. IX in January 2001, the then ICJ-K Executive Director, Kagwiria Mbogori said:

Last year’s recipient of the (Jurist of the Year) award was remarkable in three respects. Firstly, he was by far the youngest person to receive this award. Secondly, although many of his efforts in the advancement of human rights have clearly impacted in Kenya, the recipient has been resident in South Africa for the last three years. Despite his relative young age, he has been a critical force in getting Kenyans outside the country… to rally together for democracy and human rights back at home. Thirdly, as a prolific writer, he has been at the forefront in the use of electronic mail and the Internet to advance the cause of human rights in Kenya. In this way, he has opened our eyes to the unlimited potential that exists in these new technologies. It was thus with great pride and pleasure that the ICJ-K presented the 2000 Jurist of the Year Award to Mr. Njonjo Mue.

Njonjo has remained an active member of ICJ-K and has spoken at several ICJ-K workshops and conferences including its public lectures and annual conferences including in 2007 and 2008, and the just concluded 50th Anniversary Conference.




D.    WHY NJONJO SEEKS TO BE ELECTED TO THE ICJ-K COUNCIL

ICJ-K celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year as a human rights organization that has few equals in Kenya and Africa. It does so at a time when Kenya as a country is at a crossroads as we seek to recover and heal from the violence that followed the disputed 2007 General Election and that brought us to the brink of civil war. Through Agenda 4 of the National Accord and Reconciliation Process, the country has embarked on a series of reforms that if carried out properly will amount to nothing short of recreating our republic. A restoration of fundamental rights and the rule of law is a critical focus of this process and the leadership of ICJ-K will continue to be crucial in this regard.

Njonjo Mue, with his proven track record as a brilliant yet humble and courageous human rights advocate, seeks to contribute to steering ICJ-K through these interesting yet precarious times in which we live. His academic and practical qualificationS in transitional justice and his work with the pre-eminent transitional justice organization in the world will enable him to leverage some of the best expertise on transitional justice in the world for ICJ-K as it seeks to shape the debate on reform in Kenya.

Although a seat on the ICJ-K Council would optimize his contribution, it is by no means a necessary condition for continued engagement. Failure to win this election would by no means act as a bar to Njonjo’s consistent commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law that ICJ-K has already recognized. He will gladly continue to contribute as a member to promoting the mission and vision of ICJ-K as it enters its sixth decade.