17 June 2021
Tonight, I was welcomed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the sad news of the death of the first President of the Republic of Zambia and a founding father of the nation, His Excellency Dr. Kenneth Kaunda.
In this moment of great loss to Zambians and indeed all Africans, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the Kaunda family, President Edgar Lungu, and the government and people of the Republic of Zambia.
The demise of President Kaunda at the grand old age of 97 years brings to end the pioneers and forefathers who led the struggles for decolonisation of the African continent and received the instrument of Independence from the colonial masters in Africa.
Let all Africans and friends of Africa take solace in the knowledge that President Kaunda has gone home to a well-deserved rest and to proudly take his place beside his brothers such as Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea, Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Nelson Mandela of South Africa to name but a few.
All of them, without exception, were nationalists who made sacrifices in diverse ways. Some, like Patrice Lumumba, untimely lost their lives soon after independence. We are consoled that God granted President Kaunda long life to witness the progression of Africa through five decades of proud and not-so proud moments.
In December 2015, I visited President Kaunda at his home in Lusaka in what was to be our last meeting. As we discussed about everything from family to politics in our two countries and indeed in Africa generally, I asked him if the Africa that we have today is the Africa for which he and his contemporaries struggled and fought. President Kaunda was visibly pained in his response and at some point he broke down and wept. It was obvious to me how disappointed he was about some of the challenges that have plagued our continent for decades since independence.
As we mourn President Kaunda, my prayer is that the death of this great African son and leader will remind us of the sacrifices that he and his contemporaries who fought for Africa’s independence made. Let it remind us of the vision that they had for Africa; their hopes and aspirations; their dream for a free, strong, united and prosperous Africa. Let us, African leaders and people, never let the labour of these heroes past be in vain.
Rest well, KK. Africa is free and will be great.
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Palestine and the Necessary Evils of Settler Colonialism
As we watch what is taking place in Jerusalem, we are witnessing the creation of a settler colony in real time.
If you have ever had a hard time imagining how countries like the US, Canada and South Africa were created, just take a look at what’s happening in Jerusalem right now; you are witnessing the implementation of settler colonialism on your smartphone and high-definition TV screens in real time, pure and simple. As I sit on the unceded land of the Chochenyo Ohlone, I cannot help but reflect on how what we are currently watching take place in the Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan is precisely what has been happening here — to every single native community — since the invasion of the Americas in 1492.
Reading US textbooks or watching the mainstream US media may lead one to believe that building the United States was a benign and steady process. Much like the turtle racing the hare, the US was built brick by brick, over time. In step with a series of land purchases, settlers on this new frontier established new laws and an economy that powered the fulfilment of their manifest destiny. In Israel, they made the desert bloom; in the United States, Indians were civilised and assimilated.
But the reality is that the invention of these legal, political, security and economic systems has served as the pretext to violently lay claim to land and resources and dispossess indigenous peoples. These co-constitutive systems allow land and resources to become subordinated to modern property regimes that are contingent on prevailing concepts of race and racial difference. In Palestine, as in the United States, this manifests as land and property being designated for the descendants of the “chosen” people, to be enjoyed and deployed at will. We are seeing, in Palestine, that possession of property amounts to having the power of the state at one’s disposal.
This is precisely because the state’s legitimacy relies on us buying into the necessity of these systems for our own survival. This buy-in is the very mechanism by which settler colonialism endures. Settler colonialism is deemed successful when these systems become a fait accompli even among the most critical. For example, despite the concept of property having these nefarious origins, many of us aspire to “own a little piece of land”. What we are seeing in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods is the legitimisation of these systems, created by the colonial powers with the explicit intent to dispossess the indigenous people. Thus while the planned eviction of the Palestinian families is described as a “real estate dispute”, it is, in essence, the state of Israel legislating the dispossession of the Palestinian people.
For the Iskafi, Kurd, Jaanoi and Qassem families who were ordered by Israeli courts to evacuate their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, the implementation of settler colonialism is brutal and unsettling. In the 73 years since its founding, the State of Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian land has gone unabated, and almost always under the pretext of security, or “natural growth”, that it grants only to its settler population. For years, Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, has been documenting how Israel’s legal system serves as a facade to support claims to appropriate maximum land for exclusively Jewish settlement, primarily through the non-governmental front, the Jewish National Fund.
State-sanctioned vs. fringe violence in the colonial world
As Martinican psychoanalyst and political theorist Frantz Fanon noted, the ordering of these regimes is ruled by violence. Whether in the United States, Palestine, or elsewhere, occupation, land dispossession, and home evictions are always violent acts. The violence takes on two forms: state-sanctioned and fringe. The militarised policing of Palestinians, their land, and their homes, is state-sanctioned and thus deemed legitimate to preserve law and order among a population deemed hostile. The deadly closure of the Gaza Strip and the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians in Gaza by air, land and sea are justified as “Israel having a right to defend itself”. It is even in the name, Operation Law and Order, which Israel deployed to arrest more than 1500 Palestinians who protested across historic Palestine against the assaults on their people in Gaza and Jerusalem.
Whether in the United States, Palestine, or elsewhere, occupation, land dispossession, and home evictions are always violent acts.
On the other hand, the angry mobs of far-right Israeli settlers chanting “Death to Arabs” and organising over chat apps to carry out attacks against Palestinians, are considered to be “fringe”. Officially, the state must distance itself from, and denounce these displays of settler violence, in order to maintain its international standing as the “only democracy in the Middle East”. In practice, however, the state actually benefits from this violence and needs to stay tethered to this extremist version of Zionism, to achieve the vision of Eretz Israel.
Furthermore, this violence is not new, nor is it an anomaly. This was evident in the lynchings perpetrated in the so-called “mixed cities” by secular and liberal Israelis considered to constitute the mainstream of Israeli society. And let’s not forget that violence was foundational to establishing the state; many of Israel’s founding fathers were members, and often leaders, of the militias that carried out terrorist attacks to force Palestinians to flee their homes.
The necessary evils of settler colonialism
Don’t be mistaken, what’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah is not merely a legal dispute between property owner and tenant coming to a head. Nor is this the first time that these families have had to endure Zionist colonial violence. Let us recall that the families now fighting their expulsion from their Sheikh Jarrah homes are originally from Haifa, and were among the 750,000 displaced Palestinians whom Israel denies the right to return to the homes they fled for their lives in 1948. That these families are at risk of being displaced for a second time, under the auspices of laws written to protect the Jewish character of Israel, is evidence of how hard Israel makes it for Palestinians to survive in their homeland.
This could not have been made more obvious than by the New York-born settler occupying a part of the El Kurd home in Sheikh Jarrah. In an interview, and in his own less than eloquent way, he suggests that the dispossession of Palestinians is “a necessary evil”. His attitude is not new, but rather it is emblematic of the “necessary evil” that culminated in the dispossession of over 80 per cent of the Palestinian population in 1948.
This necessary evil also has a name: settler colonialism. By naming it, it can be properly situated in the historical, political, economic and legal matrices the new state has invented to obfuscate the fact that Palestinian belong in their land, which have led to a process of protracted dispossession for nearly a century. Thus the protests we are seeing throughout historic Palestine, and in the global Palestinian Diaspora, is a people resisting their erasure by a system that is designed to make their existence as non-Jews in their homeland unbearable.
Displacement as an enduring insecurity
The resistance being exhibited by Palestinians across all of historic Palestine should not be understood in the terms set forth by international media and the Israeli and US governments. Words matter, and phrases such as “flare up” and words like “clashes” do not only ahistoricise and decontextualize what has materially been at stake for Palestinians for more than seven decades. These terms also diminish the strength of the human impulse to resist erasure. Like the majority of the world whose lands have been colonised, Palestinians know all too well the sense of enduring insecurity that losing one’s home and homeland engenders in a people and in subsequent generations.
Sheikh Jarrah is also the site where a foreign settler population is unabashedly invading and occupying Palestinians’ most intimate spaces: our homes. Losing one’s home, whether by bank seizure, as we saw after the 2008 economic crash, or by colonial design, as we see in Palestine, leaves a feeling so visceral, and a trauma so deep, that it casts a shadow of dread and affects nearly every decision in one’s life. I know this feeling all too well. I am the granddaughter of Palestinians who fled their homes in al-Lydd (Lod) and Yaffa in 1948 and were not allowed to return. Then at thirteen, I too experienced displacement when my family surrendered our home to the bank in the midst of an economic recession. Before having the vocabulary to name it, my family’s experiences made clear that the system is to blame. After all, a system that is indifferent to, and/or facilitates losing what should be most secure, is a failed system.
Palestinians know all too well the sense of enduring insecurity that losing one’s home and homeland engenders in a people and in subsequent generations.
As I watch what my people continue to endure, nothing will ever convince me that what we are seeing unfold in Jerusalem today, or that what has unfolded over and over again in Palestine for nearly a century, is justified. And yet this “necessary evil” is relentless, despite the trauma, despite the condemnations, and despite its immorality.
Just as enduring as these systems, is the resistance that colonised peoples put up against their erasure at all junctures and in all ways. Despite all the might Israel enacts against Palestinians, with the myopic support from US media and government, and despite all efforts to negate their belonging to Palestine through an invented matrix of legal and discursive fallacies, Palestinians will continue to resist. Besides the 24-hour news cycle and access to videos in real time, what is different today from when the first settlers invaded Turtle Island, is that we know what the logical conclusion looks like. It looks like us, and we have no excuse.
Will Kenya’s Vision 2030 Megaprojects Bring the North in From the Cold?
The proposed megaprojects have shifted the focus of conflict to disputes over land and boundaries, an emotive issue that reinforces the deep-rooted sentiments of regional exclusion and inequality.
Northern Kenya is the embodiment of the precariousness of a post-colonial nation-state. Both the colonial and the post-independence governments neglected the region, leaving it completely underdeveloped compared to the rest of Kenya, a situation American writer Negley Farson described “as one half of Kenya, about which the other half knows nothing and seems to care even less [about].”
The colonialists referred to the inhabitants as “the hostile tribes” and as the relationship between the rest of Kenya and the north became fraught, the region attempted to secede immediately after Kenya’s independence, a step that set the tone for the way the area was governed post-independence — closed and ignored.
Independent Kenya adopted the methods of the colonial administration and continued to enact restrictive legislation. Where the colonial administration had passed The Outlying District Ordinance of 1902 and The Special District Ordinance of 1934, the Jomo Kenyatta administration passed the Preservation of Public Security Act of 1964, hot on the heels of the Shifta War. In 1970, the government passed the Indemnity Act that applied to North-Eastern Province (Garissa, Wajir and Mandera) and Isiolo, Marsabit, Tana River and Lamu Districts. The Act immunised the government against any claims for compensation for human rights abuses committed between the 25th of December 1963 and the 1st of December 1967.
The securitisation of the region led to egregious human rights violations by state security agencies. Massacres were committed in Wagalla (Wajir), Malka Mari (Mandera) and Daaba (Isiolo), and people and livestock were confined to restricted areas as part of the strategy to counter the Shifta insurgency. Today, high poverty levels among the Waso Borana are attributed to these events, with communities narrating that any livestock found outside the designated areas was either killed or confiscated and taken away by the military.
Thousands of families escaped to Somalia, only returning in the early 1990s and settling in lower Garbatulla in Isiolo County. To date, some of these people have no Kenyan identification documents, which are vital for access to services such as opening a bank account, MPESA (mobile money) transactions, admission to tertiary education, and travel from rural villages to Isiolo town.
The securitisation of the region led to egregious human rights violations by state security agencies.
Government policy changed with the adoption of Sessional Paper No. 8 of 2012 on the National Policy for the Sustainable Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands, which aims to address development imbalances, reduce poverty, manage violent conflict and ethnic strife, address climate challenges and make investments in the livestock markets sector among others.
Isiolo County is referred to as the gateway to northern Kenya. Situated about 285Km from Nairobi, this once sleepy and dusty county now finds itself at the centre of Kenya’s development plans. In effect, the government has placed Isiolo at the heart of Kenya’s Vision 2030, the country’s new development blueprint for transforming Kenya into “a newly industrialised, “middle-income country providing a high quality of life for all its citizens” by the year 2030.
Vision 2030 is perhaps an antidote to Sessional Paper no. 10 of 1965 on African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya. This first post-independence development plan created a dichotomy of low potential and high potential regions, a logic that placed northern Kenya in the low potential region, with the result that it received little in the form of investment from the government.
The key pillars of Vision 2030 are mega-infrastructure projects, some of which are national and some of which are regional and involve Isiolo County. The county has been selected to host one of the three resort cities planned for northern Kenya and destined to become industrial, economic and tourist hubs. The other two cities will be in Lamu and Turkana. Other flagship projects are the proposed multi-billion-shilling Crocodile Jaw dam on Ewaso Ng’iro River on the Laikipia-Isiolo border, which is facing stiff resistance from the local communities and environmentalists due to fears that it will negatively affect over 3.5 million people and wildlife downstream. Other already completed projects are the Isiolo International Airport and the Isiolo-Moyale highway.
Isiolo’s strategic location makes it a regional transport hub linking northern Kenya to the rest of Kenya and to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia through the multi-billion-shilling Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) corridor.
While these developments will undoubtedly spur Isiolo’s growth, they risk causing more conflict unless judiciously executed; the region already experiences ethnic strife, cattle rustling, cross-border conflict, land and boundary conflicts between Isiolo and the neighbouring counties of Meru, Garissa and Wajir, and there is a new simmering boundary tension with Marsabit and Laikipia counties.
The benefits expected to accrue from these investments have heightened tensions between Isiolo and the neighbouring Garissa and Meru counties, with each county laying claim to a road or an area. The likelihood of border conflict is therefore high with the planned construction of the US$750 million (KSh81 billion) Horn of Africa Gateway Development Project (HOAGD) — formerly the Northern-Eastern Transport Improvement Project (NETIP) — which is set to begin this year. Once completed, the road will link Isiolo to Garissa, Wajir and Mandera.
In his report LAPSSET — The history and politics of an eastern African megaproject, Adrian J. Browne argues that Kenya’s optimism about the LAPSSET project is based on “conservative feasibility statistics”. According to him, large-scale infrastructure projects “could inject between 2% and 3% of GDP into the [Kenyan] economy” and even yield higher growth rates of between 8 and 10 per cent of GDP when fully operational. Such growth would be a game-changer and could transition Kenya into a middle-income country.
However, these projects have a dual impact on the community. First, for the pastoral communities whose livelihoods depend on uninhibited mobility of livestock and humans, these projects will interfere with their migration corridors. Secondly, these projects are being undertaken on land that has been taken away from the pastoralist communities, in some cases, on land that pastoralists use for grazing in times of acute drought.
While these developments will undoubtedly spur Isiolo’s growth, they risk causing more conflict unless judiciously executed.
The 6,500 acres of land at Kipsing Gap — sandwiched between Katim Hill and Ol Doinyo Degishu Hill — about 20 kilometres west of Isiolo town, is where the multi-billion-shilling resort city will be established. However, the Kipsing Corridor is the area the communities fall back on during periods of drought.
Speculative land buying in anticipation of the large-scale infrastructure projects could potentially displace the local people. Large-scale infrastructure projects are also the source of fierce contestation between the local communities and even spiteful remarks between the county’s political leaders, with each claiming a section of the area where they believe a project will be implemented. Isiolo leaders have also claimed that they have little or no information about the project.
Community wildlife conservation
The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT)-led conservation model is a hotly and passionately debated issue in Isiolo. Supporters of wildlife conservation argue that conservancies attract tourism and create employment opportunities for community members, improve security, expand the livestock market, and preserve open green spaces to create world-class recreation facilities.
Those opposed to conservancies challenge the prominence given to wildlife over pastoralism, and express fears over bio-piracy and the loss of potential grazing land. They also cite the risk of increased conflict, and the replacement of traditional resource governance institutions such as Deedha with ineffective structures.
The influence of the conservation sector is so entrenched within the political leadership such that government officials from the criminal justice system to the interior ministry are appointed to the NRT board, a move that is designed to legitimise its operations. Noordin Haji, Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has been proposed to sit on the NRT board, which is also scouting for a representative from the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
Other individuals proposed to sit on the NRT board are Mbuvi Ngunze, the former CEO and Group Managing Director of Kenya Airways, Dr Betty Addero Radier, CEO, Kenya Tourism Board (KTB); Dr Julius Kipngetich, former Director and CEO, Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS); and Jarso Mokku, a respected Elder from Isiolo and the current CEO of Drylands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative (DLCI).
Mathew Brown, Managing Director the Nature Conservancy, Africa Division; Flora and Fauna International senior Director Joana Elliot; Mike Watson, CEO Lewa Wildlife Conservancy; and Kenya Forest Service, CEO Julius Kamau have also been Proposed to sit on the NRT board.
To entrench its existence further, the NRT is also suspected of having sponsored a “deformed” bill, the Isiolo County Community Conservancies Bill 2021, which was hurriedly formulated and adopted without public participation.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was established in 1989 to conserve and manage wildlife. However, the NRT has grown in influence, outstripping the KWS through donor funding; the organisation has taken the lead in shaping Kenya’s wildlife conservation policies.
The NRT claims on its website to be a grassroots conservation outfit, building peace and conserving the natural environment. However, local communities in Isiolo blame the organisation for using the dreaded and well-trained 9-1 and 9-2 conservancy rangers to support Samburu raiders during inter-community conflict. An unpublished 2019 report produced by Waso Borana Professionals (WBP), Errant Natives and the Borana Council of Elders (BCE) provides details of documented gross human rights violations, unfulfilled promises, and compromised livelihoods due to loss of strategic water points and grazing lands.
Local communities in Isiolo blame the NRT for using the dreaded and well-trained 9-1 and 9-2 conservancy rangers to support Samburu raiders during inter-community conflict.
Deadly and violent conflict has been a feature of the region for decades, the feuding often driven by conflict over pasture and water and facilitated by easy access to Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).
But the proposed mega-infrastructure projects have now shifted the focus of conflict to disputes over land and boundaries, an emotive issue that reinforces the deep-rooted sentiments of regional exclusion and inequality.
If Kenya is serious about its development ambitions, the government must walk the talk and redeem itself from the earlier missteps of Sessional Paper Number 10 of 1965, which relegated northern Kenya to the periphery.
Kenneth Kaunda: The Founding President of Zambia
Independence leader who fought white rule and helped shape postcolonial southern Africa
This piece was originally published in the Financial Times and is republished in the Elephant with the express permission of the author.
Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president who has died aged 97, was a towering figure of African nationalism and the anti-colonial independence movement that swept the continent in the 20th century. For his 25 years in office he fought apartheid, yet was more a victim of southern Africa’s white minority regimes than an instrument of their collapse.
After taking office at independence in 1964, Kaunda banned all political parties except his United National Independence party in 1972. In 1991 he reluctantly conceded multi-party elections, in which he was soundly defeated. Nonetheless, Kaunda ruled Zambia with a rare benevolence in an era of dictatorships and systematic abuse of human rights. His Christian faith, together with socialist values, was at the heart of his doctrine of “Zambian humanism”.
At home, his policies were little short of disastrous economically. Zambia’s all-important copper mines were nationalised shortly before a fall in the commodity’s price, while industries were taken over by an administration short of managers — the country had only a dozen university graduates at independence in 1964 — and newly created state-owned farms proved a failure.
Abroad, his influence never quite matched his rhetoric. He denounced white rule but was inhibited by landlocked Zambia’s dependence on trade through neighbouring Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa. Closure of the border with Rhodesia left his country dependent on a road to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam for its fuel imports. A Chinese-built rail link opened in 1975, but the line never met its potential.
Born at Lubwa Mission on April 28 1924 in what was then Northern Rhodesia, Kenneth David Kaunda was the eighth child of teacher parents. After secondary school he too became a teacher, but in 1949 he gave up teaching to enter politics. By 1953 he was secretary-general of the country’s African National Congress party. Impatient and ambitious, he formed his own party in 1958, which was banned a year later.
In 1960 he took over the leadership of the United National Independence party. It swept to victory in the independence election of 1964, ending Zambia’s legal status as a British protectorate. Almost immediately, Kaunda was confronted by the white Rhodesian rebels’ unilateral declaration of independence on November 11 1965.
For the next 15 years his political life was dominated by the Rhodesian bush war, which spilled over into Zambia. He provided a base not only for Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union but South Africa’s own African National Congress, Namibia’s South West Africa People’s Organisation, the FNLA of Angola and Frelimo from Mozambique.
His frequent tearful warnings of regional cataclysm, invariably delivered while holding a freshly ironed white handkerchief, were heartfelt but ineffectual.
Historical and geographical realities left him with a weak hand.
His decision to keep the border with Rhodesia closed hurt Zambia far more than it did his neighbour, and its eventual reopening in 1973 was a humiliating climbdown. A meeting with John Vorster, prime minister of apartheid South Africa in 1975, achieved little, while his secret talks with Ian Smith, Rhodesia’s white minority leader, served only to sour relations with Nkomo’s rival, Robert Mugabe, who was to win the elections for an independent Zimbabwe in 1980.
Pro-independence events had also left Kaunda at a serious disadvantage. The huge Kariba hydroelectric dam was built on the Zambezi river that formed the boundary with Rhodesia. Its generator was on the south bank, leaving the latter in control of power supplies to Zambia’s copper mines.
Perhaps his finest hour came when he hosted the 1979 Commonwealth conference that helped pave the way to Rhodesia’s transition to an independent Zimbabwe. The highlight was a beaming Kaunda leading Margaret Thatcher around the dance floor.
Trade union-led pressure for an end to the country’s one-party system eventually became irresistible, and in 1991 he conceded to demands for the multi-party poll that led to his ousting.
One of his last public appearances was at the funeral of Nelson Mandela, where he attempted to get the crowd of mourners to join him in a rendition of “Tiyende Pamodzi” (let us pull together), a rousing Unip anthem sung at Unip rallies.
The response was an uncomprehending silence. Kaunda had become disconnected from the Africa that he, Mandela and others had worked to shape.
This piece was originally published in the Financial Times and is republished in the Elephant with the express permission of the author.
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