Friday, 15 February 2013



Let's learn from history. In 1776, the US became independent declaring that 'all men are created equal'. But the 'all men', did not include blacks, for slavery continued to be legal until 12th June 1865 when the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished it after a bloody civil war. 

The founding fathers who expelled the British and passed a liberal constitution could not free slaves because of entrenched interests. Many of those who signed the constitution owned slaves. They left the battle for full freedom to another generation. Indeed they hoped that the new liberal constitution would, over time, be used as an instrument to bring freedom to all people and lead to a more perfect union.

But that was not to be. The brand new law was not strong enough to break long-entrenched shackles and enable the country to move forward. This was because the aristocracy had a vested interest in continuing the institution of slavery. So what could not be achieved through legal means had to be achieved through extra-legal means.

And herein lies the lesson for Kenya. In 1963, we achieved independence, but we soon realized that the colonial state was never dismantled, it was only inherited, and by and large, we remained enslaved with only a few families living it large as they held brief for foreign interests. 

In 2010, after a long struggle, we gave ourselves a new constitution with the hope that it would enable us to finally dismantle the colonial state and give us all an equal share in the fortunes of our land. But over the last two years, we have seen the forces of the status quo back-peddle on the promises of the new constitution. For example, one of its key promises is land reform, and yet we have seen the President who swore to defend the constitution blatantly ignore it and a court order to boot in failing to gazette the validly appointed land commissioners, despite the fact that land has been at the centre of all our conflicts. 

Makau Mutua was recently vilified for predicting that there would be a military coup if a particular side won the forthcoming elections. I wouldn't put it exactly like that because that risks placing me on one or other side of the Jubilee-Cord divide while I don't believe that either of them is committed to fundamental change. My point rather is that if the outcome of the March 4th election is such that the fundamental changes envisaged by the constitution are rolled back, no matter by whom, then I fear that this country will have missed one of its last chances to achieve peaceful transformation. For those who make it impossible to achieve change through peaceful means make it inevitable for the oppressed to pursue it through violent means. 

The future of this country is in our hands. The character of this nation and the fortunes of generations to come shall be fundamentally defined by how we vote on March 4th. Shall we take charge of our collective destiny, or are we content to become the laughing stock of neighbours near and far; the subject of whispers about a people who once seemed to be going somewhere but who got shipwrecked in the high seas of tribalism, greed, economic collapse, socio-political confusion and moral decay? 

Uamuzi ni wako.

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