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PAMBAZUKA NEWS 349: KENYANS MUST SEIZE DEMOCRACY FOR THEMSELVES (interesting response re constitution)

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  • Janet Feldman
    PAMBAZUKA NEWS 349: KENYANS MUST SEIZE DEMOCRACY FOR THEMSELVES The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2008

      The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa

      Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

      With nearly 500 contributors and an estimated 500,000 readers Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.

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      Highlights from this issue


      - Pambazuka editors take on the Kenya power-sharing deal

      - An interview with Wangui Wa Goro on the fragile nature of peace in Kenya

      1 Features
      Mukoma Wa Ngugi and Firoze Manji

      It has taken over 1,500 Kenyan lives, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, a destroyed economy, and intensified mistrust between ethnicities that will last generations for both Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to realize what everyone knew from the beginning: Neither side can realistically govern the country without the other. There must be real power-sharing to move the country forward and begin the healing and reconciliation process.

      We applaud Kofi Annan for steering Kenya back to sanity. But we also have to understand that this peace deal is an emergency stopgap solution so that the wounds of rigged elections, mobilized militias, ethnic cleansing, and extra-judicial killings may not bleed the country to death.

      The Kenyan people on whose backs this power sharing deal has been signed have to seize democracy for themselves if change is to be real and long lasting, and in service of the Kenyan people and not the competing politicians.

      We applaud the deal for peace but also recognize the work for a democracy that serves the people and not the elite is just starting.

      We have been offered the shell of democracy, but the struggle is for its content.

      We call for a democracy with content of equal land redistribution because land was at the heart of this crisis.

      We call for a democracy with the content of economic justice because it is our discontent with extreme poverty that was used against us by the same politicians we are going to reward with cabinet positions.

      We call for a democracy with the content of justice. In 1963, our first authoritarian leader, Jomo Kenyatta, asked us to forgive but not forget British colonialism. What he meant was forgive and forget. Let justice be the keeper of our memory.

      We call for a democracy that protects its citizens from the excesses of the state. The police killings of unarmed electoral protestors recalls the extra-judicial killings of hundreds of young men criminalized because they are poor in May to June, 2007.

      The police force we inherited from British colonialism was trained to see the people as the enemy. We call not only for a retraining of the police, but also for the officers and politicians who gave the shoot-to-kill orders to be brought to justice

      We call for a democracy that has the content of justice, if we are to end of cycle of violence and counter violence, revenge and counter-revenge.

      We call for a systematic disarming of all militia and the bringing to justice all those responsible for killings, injuries and destabilization.

      We call for guarantees of safe passage and return of those violently displaced from their homes. Those who have suffered loss need to be compensated.

      We call on an immediate investigation on behalf of the victims of sexual violence and rape and the bringing to justice those responsible.

      We call for an independent judicial inquiry into the allegations of election rigging that led to the current crisis.

      We have been very good at forgetting:  the February 25th anniversary of the Wagalla massacres of 1984 in which over a thousand Kenyan Somalis were killed by the Moi government just passed without as much as a murmur. The recent Eldoret Killings recall the Eldoret killings of 1992 in which over a thousand Kenyans lost their lives. We call for historical and present day crimes against the Kenyan people and humanity to be punished.

      We welcome the calm that the agreement brings. But this must not be confused with peace: peace will only be possible through justice and the placing of the truth in the public arena and addressing injustice and inequality.

      A process must begin now to consider whether the constitution as it exists, and as it will be amended by parliament shortly, is the constitution that can guarantee peace, or whether we need to establish one that reflects the vision and values of all citizens.

      In short, we call for a democracy that serves the people, and not a democracy that dresses up thieves and political thugs in suits.

      Let us make sure Kibaki and Raila do not forget that they are in power as a result of over 1,500 needless deaths and the thousands who have been displaced and the anxiety and fear of millions of Kenyans.

      A true democracy is for the Kenyan people to win, or to lose.

      *Mukoma Wa Ngugi and Firoze Manji are the editors of Pambazuka News.

      **Please send comments to editor@... or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org

      The full text of the agreement signed by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga is available at the link below.

      Pambazuka Editors'

      Pambazuka News spoke with Wangui Wa Goro, a public intellectual, writer, translator and academic and an Associate Fellow at the Institute of Human Rights and Social Justice at London Metropolitan University about the power sharing agreement reached by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga on February 28, 2008. Pambazuka News readers will remember her for her incisive commentary on Kenya pre and post the crisis. We spoke about the implications of the peace-deal on the larger questions of peace and justice, the meaning of democracy itself, the continuing role of Civil Society Organizations and lessons for other African countries.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: The power sharing deal has Raila Odinga as the Prime Minister and Mwai Kibaki remaining the President. We are not yet clear on exact day-to-day functioning of each, but what are your initial thoughts?

      WANGUI WA GORO: I am glad that the parties have come to some agreement at the moment because it will ease the tension in the country. I am however wary because of the way in which we have witnessed the mediation process. I think that many Kenyans are skeptical about the goodwill of some in the process. As Kenyans, we are also aware of our capacity for duplicity and doubletalk ("ujanja").

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Both Kibaki and Raila formed a coalition government shortly after the 2002 elections that collapsed and in way, the violence we saw was a direct result of their inability to get along--do you a see a difference this time? Will it hold?

      WANGUI WA GORO: I think the fact that the process is being witnessed nationally and internationally by all will place a huge burden on those who want to cheat unlike before when Memorandums of Understanding were agreed behind closed doors. This is a significant difference between 2002 and 2008.

      I am however still concerned that the Kenyan people should know the outcome of the election that just took place. These agreements could undermine our confidence in the mechanisms of democracy and the institutions for this. We are bowing to the will of individuals rather than to the will of our nation and this is wrong. I hope, therefore, that this arrangement is a transitional one. We are rolling back our attainment of multipartism which should provide checks and balances.

      I think the loss of life and displacements we have witnessed should act as a wake up call for all of us and the world and if the two leaders are serious and actually work together, this may work. I still believe that the civil society, other political players and the international community should continue pressing for the delivery of the agreement in order for the transitional process and justice to take place. The hard work now has a framework as does the chance for a new constitution. Kenyans will have to work hard to heal the nation and to continue to seek peace, truth and justice. I hope that these processes can heal the nation. I pray that for this alone, that peace will hold.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Do you see a continuing role for the international community? Should there be a difference between African and Western pressure?

      WANGUI WA GORO: No. I think that what should matter the most is what Kenyans want and the African and international pressure should reflect that will of the Kenyan people. I see a continued role of the international community in "supervising" the agreement and ensuring that Kenya does not slide into anarchy. This they can do by using the agreement to hold individuals and their parties to account.

      I hope that The Kofi Annan Team remains with Kenyans for the duration of the Transitional Period in an advisory or consultative role to ensure that we remain within the spirit and letter of the agreements. I hope that Parliament will also take responsibility for running the affairs of the country and that Kenyans find mechanisms for engaging constructively with their leaders, particularly the civil society in an organized form. We have never been here in our history.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: The civil society organizations have been agitating for an arrangement that would make peace possible. What should their role be in the post-peace deal period?

      WANGUI WA GORO: The role of the civil society is now more crucial than ever. They will have to be the domestic monitors of the agreement and further, because of their knowledge and the way in which they have conducted themselves over the last two months, they will find an important role as a lobby which is not entrenched in the processes. They can engage constructively and this will be very important for the country. We have also seen the importance of their vanguard role in this process. There are many lessons to be learned here and I hope that unlike 2002, they do not let up.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: A short question- Where are the people in this deal?

      WANGUI WA GORO: That is precisely the point! I believe that the discussions with Dr. Kofi Annan are continuing on the longer-term issues this coming Friday. We should wait and see what is agreed then.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Moving forward - The Kenyan society has been divided in ways we have not seen before- probably not since the end of British colonialism. More than 1,500 dead, hundreds of thousands of refugees, not to speak of an economy in tatters--how do we repair the torn fabric?

      WANGUI WA GORO: On the Kenyan society being divided for the first time, this is not correct. Divide and rule tactics were part of British colonial rule. Kenya has also had very difficult moments in its history such as the assassination of Tom Mboya when the so called differences amongst ethnicities were supposed to be very high. People were very hurt then.

      And many other terrible things have happened to people like Pio Gama Pinto, Bishop Muge, JM Kariuki, Robert Ouko etc. and Kenyans can see patterns here which are not ethnically driven. Some of these leaders were asking fundamental questions about injustice and inequality. We have also had a coup d'etat in 1982 when many people died, and in 1984 many Kenyans were killed in the Wagalla Massacre. In 1992 many Kenyans were displaced from the Rift Valley and many were also killed - over 1500. And between 1982 to 1990 many Kenyans were jailed, tortured, killed and exiled. These traumas have continued since independence. I hope that this disregard for life and for Kenyans stops for once and for all. All of us are important and our lives are precious in equal measure.

      You will also know that those who fought for freedom have died in abject poverty and without recognition until recently. We have to have a broader understanding of our history and not allow the distortions of "ethnicism" to blind us to the class dimension, corruption, poverty and disenfranchisement of the majority Kenyans of all ethnicities, cultures and religions.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Can we reflect on the role of Western democracy on historical legacies? Does the Kenya crisis suggest there is something wrong with Western democracy? What does African democracy look like?

      WANGUI WA GORO: I think that there is a difference between the cultures of practice of "democracy" and what we understand as democratic principals. Democracies are built over time through good practice over years. There must be some of the values of what is called a "good society" which people seem to understand to be in the contract for democracy such as accountability, representation, transparency and the institutions and mechanism for delivering these such as the rule of law, independent institutions such as Parliament and the Judiciary which remove entrenched power from parties or individuals..

      Now, I don't think we have seen African Democracy working at its best in Kenya or much of Africa because of the kinds of legacies and traditions and practices we adopted after Independence. You will know we inherited the Constitution and some of the practices from colonial rule, in our case from Britain. For instance, the police force was used to defend the state from the people and this culture has continued. We did not have a moment of reflection of the kind of nation state we might want for ourselves. This question of regional representation and distribution of resources for instance is one;, it was raised for debate but then shelved and ignored, and is at the heart of some of the difficulties we have today.

      The philosophy of forgive and forget is another. Another is the power of the presidency which grew and grew since Kenyatta and became entrenched in the constitution because people became so frightened of him and the Presidency. This continued under Moi and in 1982, Kenya moved from a de facto one party state to a de jure one party state which really entrenched Moi's dictatorship.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Is it all about what the rulers want, not what citizens want?So we need constitutional reforms that speaks to the Kenyan political reality, for example?

      WANGUI WA GORO: I think that is what has come out as a most over riding desire of the Kenyan people. But as you know, fine constitutions can be written, and in fact, the first Kenyan one was not that bad. It is having it implemented that is a problem. Britain for instance does not have a written tradition but it evolves rules and values through Acts of Parliament and the law. Kenyans can use this opportunity to enshrine the kind of nation they want and BOMAS began to address this issue. I think a new constitution will be very good for Kenya because KENYANS will feel that they own it.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What does equality mean to democracy? It is a word that is assumed to be already contained in democracy, yet we see nations with vicious inequalities call themselves democratic - your thoughts?

      WANGUI WA GORO: On paper, Kenya has a Bill of Rights which recognises equality. But in reality, we have seen the day to day treatment of women, people with disabilities, people of "other" religions or "ethnicities" treated badly. In public, it is difficult to pass bills against violence against women such as rape. There are no policies on the aged and it is only recently that the rights of the child have come on board.

      Words are meaningless if people do not feel protected from their historic and cultural vulnerabilities. Our laws have been couched in ambiguous terms such as both recognising civil law and common law. We are not aware of what these issues mean in a diverse nation state of different ethnicities and religious persuasions so you will have one Kenyan treated differently than another because of common law which recognises the different cultures. We also do not know about each others cultures so we are limited in our arguments for Kenyan universal values. Our democracy will be most tested and beneficial when we address these issues because they lie at the heart of our current disquiet over disenfranchisement from power and lack of self-determination.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Wangui, the question of whether Kenya should be a federal state has come up quite a bit - those for it argue that resources will be distributed better - those against it that it will entrench ethnic tension. Your take?

      WANGUI WA GORO: I think that a federal state would be premature. I think that if local government was strong and there was less corruption, such a system could work. As it is now, some regions have been marginalised eternally in punitive ways and naturally they will want to have federal states. Our local government has also not been representative in the political sense or professional enough, similar to the public institutions which remain in a colonial and postcolonial time warp. They need to modernize to reflect the modern Kenyan and global world. Then we have this parallel system of administration of Provincial and District Officers who are powerful but not locally accountable. I think that these arrangements cannot foster democratic engagement when power is distributed through patronage. Appointment to senior positions has also been problematic as has been corruption and the allocation of resources.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: How do we develop and implement a people's agenda?

      WANGUI WA GORO: I think that the local issues matter a great deal to people. Their day-to-day lives. Having power and control over their own immediate destiny -which cannot be done by some centralized remote, and often middleclass or bourgeois administration. There needs to be genuine engagement with governance by the people, ways of holding their elected leaders to account and ways for having their voices heard and acted upon. As we have lived in Kenya, it has been hard in the past to have access to your elected leader and people are frightened of these people whom they elected. That is my recollection of Kenya as I knew it then.

      PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Finally Wangui, what can countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa learn from Kenya? Or countries like Uganda or Ethiopia where Museveni or Meles might point to Kenya as a warning for playing around with the fire of democracy? Are there lessons to be gleaned across the board?

      WANGUI WA GORO: I think we need to start thinking outside the box. I think the whole of Africa can learn from itself. There are lessons that point to the failures of the post colonial states from the North to the South. You can see the upheaval everywhere. There are particularities about each of our countries, such as the resilience of the pro-people cultures and their continuities. There are also longer traditions of institutionalization in some places like South Africa and the economic power of Apartheid is very deeply entrenched.

      So we need to learn from all our cultures and see how we can improve on the particular. The cultures we cultivate are also important, such as the cultures of struggle, the cultures of fear, the cultures of solidarity. What has amazed me in these last few weeks is the strength of individuals and organizations in the civil society and the pro-people movements and their willingness to defend "the good of society".

      I hope that Kenyans and our leaders are willing to give peace, truth, justice and reconciliation a try. It will be very difficult to heal our nation now that blood has flown. There is no turning back the clock and these hurts remain for a very long time. We must learn from the holocausts in our continent and elsewhere. Kenya is and can be a wonderful place.

      *Wangui Wa Goro, a public intellectual, writer, translator and academic and an Associate Fellow at the Institute of Human Rights and Social Justice at London Metropolitan University.

      **Please send comments to editor@... or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org

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