Connect with us
close

Op-Eds

Beyond Culture Shock: African and Western Values Revisited

8 min read.

The aspiration for common ground and common values is merely a delusion of those of military might. The less powerful retain a great deal of agency to reject outright those practices and values they find either unsuitable to their contexts or completely repugnant to their traditions.

Published

on

Beyond Culture Shock: African and Western Values Revisited

Lately, that old conversation on the contest between African and Euro-American beliefs and values has found renewed energy. So, as Rwandan President Paul Kagame would sternly ask recently at the margins of the CHOGM meeting in Kigali, “Who defines those values?”

African and Western values are still seen as problematically and diametrically opposed to each other despite co-existing in a global village.  “Why is that so?” European journalists, academics and diplomats ask themselves after working for five years in an African capital, and after seeing no difference between elite Nairobi and elite London. Why should we not have the same sensibilities? Consider the ways in which Nairobians and Londoners make their livelihoods, which is by renting out their labour for eight to twelve hours every day. Even the anti-capitalism activists in Nairobi or Kigali sound like Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders! Why then should we have different values regarding governance, animal rights, democracy or women’s rights?

This discussion that underlines an aspiration for common ground—some form of universality—on, among other things, what it means to be human, and the question of governance, specifically, electoral democracy as juxtaposed with growing authoritarianism, ironically and problematically still has the support of sections of the African elite.

It is curious that this conversation found new energy with Belgium’s return of a tooth belonging to CIA-murdered African giant, Patrice Lumumba, and with the holding of the CHOGM meeting in Kagame’s Rwanda, who will be running for another term in office.  “How does Kagame continue like that?” the democracy enthusiast asks. “We returned the tooth; that matter should be settled or not?” another Eurocentric die-hard adds. There was also the small inconvenient issue of the Melilla massacre on the Morocco-Spanish border and the plight of black folks in Ukraine. But who cares? Why are African political actors and sections of their elite still indifferent and slower to embrace the democratic ethic—as British democracy professor Nic Cheeseman wonders—and perhaps also to embrace other beliefs and values as espoused in Europe and North America?

Worth noting—and terribly problematic—is that there is a great deal of pressure on African political actors to exhibit inexplicable civility and loyalty especially as regards constitutionalism (as if constitutionally extending their stay in power isn’t a form of loyalty itself), and in the treatment of opposition groups and critics (even while journalist Julian Assange has been incarcerated for years and is facing extradition to the United States where he potentially faces 175 years of imprisonment for exposing the war crimes of Western modernities. Notice also that this conversation continues in a colonial-racialised paradigm and hierarchization where the African cultural and political actors have to constantly explain themselves to the Western world from a point of disadvantage—because theirs is the primordial position (a position that President Kagame touches in his interview cited above). I am not a defender of any abhorrent African political actors (whose actions, in all fairness, and in a more theoretically grounded sense, are not unique to them, but are, rather, a product of power). But I am concerned about the language of values and rights and the apparent insinuations of “indifference or slowness” on the part of African communities and actors to appreciate the universal values of democracy and human rights as understood in Western discourse.

First, despite being open to cross-cutting influences from elsewhere, it is difficult to achieve common ground on performative practices since cultures tend to be geographically contained. Talal Asad has told us that even Islam, which has a universally appreciated text, manifests differently in different geographic and time spaces.  It is my contention that the conclusion of this beauty contest of cultures and traditions—achieving common understanding of their inherent differences—is dependent, ironically, on non-cultural markers, specifically, power, power being the term for Western military and economic advantage.  It is not the superiority of ethical-cultural-value systems, and nor is it the absence of similar handicaps and vulnerabilities on either side of the Atlantic, but rather power and politics. It is the power relation embedded in the African adage about the hunter (more privileged) writing the story of the hunt to their advantage, before the animal (the less powerful) learns to tell their own story.

It is difficult to achieve common ground on performative practices since cultures tend to be geographically contained.

This contest over African and Western values is an old one. West African historians Ade Ajayi and Cheikh Anta Diop were among its first African pugilists. East African interlocutors including, more famously, Okot p’Bitek, Ngugi wa Thiongo, and Ali Mazrui participated in this conversation. Okot p’Bitek accused African actors of being fully imbued with the “colonialists’ practices” (exemplified by such accoutrements as the wigs won by judges to ape Europeans) and thus needing to “decolonise their minds”, as Ngugi would famously put it.  Mazrui’s essay, Islamic and Western Values, which tackled topics such as press freedom and democracy, concluded that the difference between Europe and the Islamic world was a difference of method, but the ills of power on either side of the aisle were the same.

Although I find it endlessly productive for African activists to constantly remind themselves and their European/American interlocutors of the words of Africa’s early intellectuals—on the non-uniqueness of the crimes of African political actors or the absolute goodness and uniqueness of African cultural traditions as understood on their terms—my intention is not to rehash the words of those intellectual giants. My intention is rather modest. Mine is a traveller’s tale of a journey into the lands of our “former” colonisers.  My people in Buganda say that “travelling is seeing, and returning is telling”. However, in telling this traveller’s tale, I want it to be read within the problematic frame of culture talk—or of a beauty contest between cultures.

For the last couple of years, I have been observing our former colonisers, and have become obsessed with turning the gaze on our beloved friends. How would a native from the African continent, from deep in the countryside, supposedly “untouched” by colonialist modernity, react upon encounter with some European—still present or recently dying—cultural/traditional practice? Because, frankly, the idea of cultural cross-fertilisation and integration, while it presents itself as pick-and-choose (where one aspect is chosen over another), it also presents itself as a package, as an entire system or civilisation. Here mediations that are understood as political (such as modes of governance or economics such as capitalism or the peasantry) intimately tie in with that which is viewed as essentially cultural (such as family, marriage, sexuality, kinship or inheritance).  As I have argued before, our European friends have toned this down as “cultural shock”, preparing the native’s mind for the horror they might encounter upon reaching Europe. It is some sort of challenge to understand, learn and perhaps embrace. But as a native I am stubbornly refusing to accept this as simply cultural shock.

Intercourse and kinship with animals

A few years ago in Berlin, I encountered a group of activists who were inconsolable about being denied their right to make love to animals by the German state.  “Why seek to moralize our country?” they angrily asked.  I need to start this story from the beginning:  Before 2012, our former colonisers in Germany—the country which hosted the 1884 Berlin Conference—had the legally sanctioned the right to make love to animals. This is understood as being in their blood; not that they lacked other outlets for sexual release, but that this was their natural inclination. Yes, it was normal to enter your bed, visit a pig stye, a kraal or a kennel and lower your pants and penetrate or be penetrated by the animal of your heart’s desire. It was only after 2012 that animal rights activists made a breakthrough, convincing co-nationals that it was unnatural for humans to find pleasure in mating with animals. The Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, finally passed the law banning intercourse with animals. Dear Africans, this was in 2012.

Dear reader, I am kidding you not, after this 2012 ban—just ten years ago—concerned Germans petitioned the courts to remove the ban, arguing that they were naturally attracted to animals.  But in 2016, the ban was upheld much to the celebration of many Germans.  However, the agitation for this right to be restored continues to this day. Please note that around this time, Norway, and Sweden had also banned the practice, and a British newspaper, The Independent, reported, that this had led “to a rise in the underground animal sex tourism in Denmark”. People interested in sex with animals—Zoophiles, so they are called—made trips to Denmark, which was yet to ban the practice, to satisfy their desires.

Two years after Germany, Denmark was conflicted on the same issue. While animal rights activists seemed to have made a breakthrough towards having the practice proscribed, the 12-strong Animal Ethics Committee of Denmark was opposed to banning the practice. The president of the Animal Ethics Committee, Bengt Holst, argued that the ban was unnecessary since the Animal Welfare Act, which was already in place, advocated for the protection of animals as it prohibited “animal suffering, pain, distress or lasting harm”.  This meant that you were free to make love to the animal of your choice as long as you didn’t cause it “suffering, pain, distress and lasting harm”.  For Bengt Holst, seeking to “moralise” the issue of making love to animals was not in good taste.

Great Britain—the world’s largest coloniser—only banned the practice in 2003 with the Sexual Offences Act. Some of its clauses are captured in this article which publishes allegations that former UK prime minister David Cameron once inserted his manhood in a dead animal while still at university in Oxford. Quoting a biography that is rightly described as controversial, the newspaper wrote that, “the Prime Minister inserted a “private part of his anatomy” into a “dead pig’s head” while at Oxford University—an act that was allegedly photographed.”  So, before 2003, our friends in the UK would have liked the African primitive to understand their reaction to the idea of mating with animals as simply cultural shock.

This meant that you were free to make love to the animal of your choice as long as you didn’t cause it “suffering, pain, distress and lasting harm”.

Our new colonising powers in the United States still have several states where mating with animals is permissible despite campaigns to ban the practice. By 2016, bestiality was still acceptable pleasure in Texas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Virginia, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont, West Virginia, Montana, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, and New Hampshire. In a nicely researched article, British psychologist, Dr Mark Griffiths reveals that, “many zoophiles believe that in years to come, their sexual preference will be seen as no different to being gay or straight”. And while it is difficult to ascertain it, many zoophiles believe animals have given them some form of consent.

My intention is not to add to the voice of anti-bestiality campaigners in Europe or the United States, or to ridicule lovers of the practice. Not at all. But if I took the vantage point of an African anthropologist—of the colonial type—writing my tales about Europe and North America (with titles such as Into the Heart of Dark Europe; Flame Trees of Berlin, the Orients of the West, etcetera) for travellers, and students on the African continent, I would tell them about the inexplicable backwardness of the people in the West. I would challenge them to be careful about these animal-loving barbarians of Europe and North America. African readers would be appalled by the idea of human beings sleeping with animals, and lobbying and fighting to keep the right to do so.  Part of my intention would be to inspire them to travel to these lands and perhaps seek to civilise these people, forcefully if need be, and if they can, to also take their lands. Because the culturally backward have no right to property and neither are they able to govern themselves.

Before 2003, our friends in the UK would have liked the African primitive to understand their reaction to the idea of mating with animals as simply cultural shock.

Perhaps my larger contention is this: while cross-fertilisation is true about cultures and traditions, and oftentimes, and that, for their survival, less powerful communities/traditions are conscripted to the dictates of the most hegemonic power, the aspiration for common ground is merely a delusion of the militarily powerful. There are dislikeable, almost disgusting things on either side of the aisle, and cross-fertilisation ought to be understood as slower and fluid. While conscripts are often cast in an inferior position, they retain a great deal of agency within the constraining limits. They will not only remodel, repackage, or refashion that which they have to adopt from the hegemony, they will also often reject outright those practices and values they find either unsuitable to their contexts or completely repugnant to their traditions. Thus, journalistic and academic promoters of implied notions of “common ground” and “common values” from the Western world to their colonised conscripts ought to beware of these nuances and dynamics of time, fluidity, and refashioning.

Support The Elephant.

The Elephant is helping to build a truly public platform, while producing consistent, quality investigations, opinions and analysis. The Elephant cannot survive and grow without your participation. Now, more than ever, it is vital for The Elephant to reach as many people as possible.

Your support helps protect The Elephant's independence and it means we can continue keeping the democratic space free, open and robust. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our collective future.

By

Yusuf Serunkuma is a columnist in Uganda’s newspapers, scholar and a playwright. In 2014, Fountain Publishers published his first play, The Snake Farmers which was received with critical acclaim in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. He is also a scholar and researcher who teaches political economy and history.

Op-Eds

Kericho County: Tea, Foods and Shifting Weather Patterns

Kericho County has experienced a gradual change in climatic conditions over the past three decades, with rainfall becoming irregular and unpredictable and drought more frequent. As a result, the region’s agricultural output is deteriorating.

Published

on

Kericho County: Tea, Foods and Shifting Weather Patterns

Climate change has become a central topic in recent conversations. And however much we may wish to bury our heads in the sand and act like the implications aren’t dire, we must acknowledge that the impact is profound. From the inconsistencies in the weather patterns and the rise in temperatures among many other indicators, we are now seeing the effects of neglecting our environment.

Kericho County lies within the bread basket zone that is Kenya’s Rift Valley, enjoying adequate rainfall, a cool climate, and fertile soils that have made it a food hub and a cog in the wheel of Kenya’s urban food supplies. According to the 2014 Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP), agriculture was the primary occupation and a direct and indirect source of livelihood for over 50 per cent of Kericho’s the residents.

However, a worrying trend highlighted by climate experts points to a gradual change in the region’s climatic conditions over the past three decades. With rainfall becoming irregular and unpredictable and drought more frequent, the region’s agricultural output is deteriorating.

A June 2020 report by the Kenya Meteorological Department, and a March 2020 report by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), show growing disparities in how the climatic shifts affect different regions. Kericho’s daytime temperatures have gone up by 11 per cent while night-time temperatures have increased by 24 per cent. The changes have brought with them their fair share of problems and challenges to the region. For instance, the county is now witnessing crop diseases that were previously unheard of. Moreover, failures and reduced yields are forcing farmers to look for alternatives to crops like tea and coffee that used to do well in the county.

An estimated 79 per cent of the land in Kericho is arable and a majority of residents live in the county’s outlying rural areas such as Cheborge, Soin, Londiani, Chepseon and Buret where farming thrives. The county has four agro-ecological zones: Upper Highlands, Lower Highlands, Upper Midlands, and Lower Midlands. The main crops farmed in the county include tea, coffee, maize, and beans. Potatoes, wheat, flowers, and pineapples are also grown in parts of the county while dairy farming also does well in the region. Data from Kericho’s Second Generation County Integrated Development Plan 2018- 2022 indicates that on-farm employment accounts for over 50 per cent of all the jobs in the county, while the Tea Agricultural Authority affirms that tea farming supports over 5 million people directly and indirectly nationally. Kericho, Bomet and Nandi counties produce 46 per cent of all the tea grown in Kenya, an indication of the significance of tea to Kericho’s economy.

Tea farming in Kericho involves both smallholder farmers and large-scale multinational companies such as Finlays, Kaisugu, and Unilever.  However, available reports show that incomes from the cash crop have been dwindling over the years, mainly due to the changing weather patterns that have contributed to low yields, while the crop is fetching less in the international markets. Some tea farmers in the region are now uprooting their tea plantations that have been adversely affected by prolonged dry spells, hailstorms, frost, and crop diseases, opting instead to venture into real estate, dairy farming, and farming of crops that can withstand the changing climate. While the shift is important in ensuring food security and sustainability of livelihoods, it also to a significant degree puts a dent in the county’s revenues owing to reduced tea exports.

Besides providing food to the country, agriculture also contributes to improved livelihoods. Managed well, it spurs economic growth, drives national short and long-term goals, and contributes to sustainable natural resource use and ecological balance within the farming communities. Agriculture also contributes significantly to household nutrition, savings, and county revenue, and is therefore a crucial sector in terms of investment and innovation. 

However, climate change is making it impossible to sustain high agricultural production in a county where residents rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods, with poor yields translating to loss of income for those who rely on agriculture both directly and indirectly.

Crop failure means reduced incomes for farmers and other key players in the production value-chain, leading to a lower purchasing power and lower yields for other businesses that rely on farming. Low purchasing power means that the farmer cannot purchase farm inputs, which leads to poor yields in subsequent seasons. Moreover, low purchasing power affects education in the county, as farmers become unable to keep their children in school, thereby increasing the number of dropouts in the region.

Climate change is making it impossible to sustain high agricultural production in a county where  residents rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods.

Forty-six-year-old Pauline Kimengich, a teacher in Kericho County, observed that there were cases of students in the region opting for early marriage after their parents were unable to raise money for their high school education, a trend which threatens the literacy levels of the county. Her sentiments are echoed by Enoch Tanui, 52, a small-scale farmer who admits to having his children help him out on the family farm because of lack of school fees.

According to the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP), most of those involved in the various agricultural activities in the region are the youth and women, although the men do participate in information-sharing and decision-making. For instance, most of the workers in the tea farms are women and youth who work primarily as tea pickers. Given the role a woman plays in the community, loss of income due to dwindling fortunes in the agricultural sector adversely affects the running of households in the region.

Moreover, loss of income forces a change in the eating habits of families. Changes in eating habits pose nutritional challenges to the family which affect, most notably, children’s health, and lead to early marriages and increased levels of crime. According to the National Crime Research Centre’s 2018 report, Kericho’s recorded rate of theft stood at 42 per cent against a national rate of 40.4 per cent. This can be attributed to the loss of income as a result of changes in climatic conditions, as a majority of the county dwellers depend on agriculture. Moreover, the county also recorded high rates of cattle rustling (34.3 per cent), burglary and break-ins (21 per cent) and theft of farm produce (15.5 per cent) which can also be linked to the dwindling fortunes in agriculture.

The changes in farming techniques and the resulting challenges and strain on the food system are a wake-up call for all interested parties to act. When a county such as Kericho, which feeds our national forex basket through exports, feels the impact of climatic changes to such a great extent, one can assume that other cash-crop farming counties have not been spared either.

Climatic changes that lead to prolonged droughts and low agricultural yields mean that the government must invest heavily in relief programmes and other measures to mitigate their effects. This may imply the government diverting resources meant for development towards curbing the effects of climate change. Through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries (MoALF) and with funding from the World Bank’s International Development Agency, the Kenyan government is implementing the Kenya Climate-Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP) to build resilience against climate change and increase agricultural productivity.

By establishing Climate Risk Profiles, county governments are made aware of the climate change risks and opportunities in their counties and how to best incorporate these perspectives in their planning and county development projects. The National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS), developed in 2010, recognizes the impact of climate change on a nation’s development. The formation of NCCRS birthed the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) in 2012, whose core mandate is to provide an implementation strategy for the proposals of the NCCRS. These two bodies have been fundamental to how Kenya responds to climate change and the steps to be taken towards achieving meaningful change.

Climatic changes that lead to prolonged droughts and low agricultural yields mean that the government must invest heavily in relief programmes and other measures to combat the effects.

The creation of county chapters of NCCAP that can work closely with the agriculture dockets in the counties to identify the challenges on the ground would be ideal in combating the effects of climate change as opposed to having an umbrella view of the situation. Farmers at the grassroots need to feel the impact of these programmes and benefit from the extension services if the country is to witness a meaningful impact.

The risks have led both national and international agencies to take action to fix the problem. With the world warming faster than at any time in recorded history, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) 2020 Emissions Gap Report proposed a solution across six sectors—energy, industry, agriculture, ecological, transport and cities—that member states can adopt. In agriculture, it proposes reducing wastage, adopting more sustainable diets, safe agricultural practices, and cutting back on emissions.

In the case of Kericho County, while the government is encouraging diversification, crops that can do well in the region but are only grown on a small scale need to be considered. For instance, local vegetables, chicken-rearing, and other agricultural produce should be produced on a large scale to reduce the over-reliance on one crop. This will ensure that people in the county have a source of livelihood even when one crop fails. Further, agricultural extension services, especially in the rural areas, need to be given a shot in the arm to ensure that farmers employ safer farming methods and are enlightened on the best ways to maximize yields while being mindful of their environment.

Rivers in Kericho such as Sambula, Chebilat and Tuyiobei have been drying up, reducing the water available for livestock and farming. Encouraging agroforestry, reforestation and afforestation will not only increase the diminishing forest cover but will also ensure water catchment areas are replenished.

Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognize access to food as a legal right, as does Article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya. The right to food gives rise to three obligations by governments: the obligation to respect this right by not taking measures that deprive people the right to food; the obligation to protect this right by enforcing laws that prevent third parties from infringing on others’ right to food; and the obligation to fulfil this right by facilitating and providing for the empowerment of people to feed themselves.

The reduction in the yields of different crops imperils the right of all Kenyans to live a dignified life, free from hunger and malnourishment. Poor crop yields further reduce the purchasing power of farmers, which has a ripple effect on other sectors that are dependent on agriculture. The effects of climate change and poor agricultural yields also mean that food suppliers have to import or seek alternatives to meet demand in the market. This leads to an increase in rural-urban migration, which creates congestion in the urban centres and puts a strain on the available resources and opportunities in the urban settings. The failure of the tea crop, specifically, means that the nation loses export revenues, shifting the equilibrium in the balance of trade.

The reduction in the yields of different crops imperils the right of all Kenyans to live a dignified life, free from hunger and malnourishment.

Changes in climate also mean that those farmers who previously relied on tea will be forced to look for alternative means of livelihood. In an economy where creation of employment is low, job losses in the agricultural sector aggravate the dire situation in the already flooded job market. Lack of employment leads to crime as those formerly employed in the agricultural sector strive to fend for their families.

These changes underline the importance of environment conservation and working towards combating climate change. Good weather leads to flourishing agriculture. Investing in agriculture opens up employment opportunities in the farms and other industries that depend on agriculture, which reduces unemployment and brings down crime rates. Employment opportunities improve the purchasing power of citizens, enabling them to make informed and better choices in nutrition, education and other areas which translates to improved livelihoods and a more prosperous nation.

This article is part of The Elephant Food Edition Series done in collaboration with Route to Food Initiative (RTFI). Views expressed in the article are not necessarily those of the RTFI.

Continue Reading

Op-Eds

Stealthy, Surreptitious Second Coming of Western Colonialism to Africa

The ludicrous proposal that every African country should put 30 per cent of its land under “protected areas” by the year 2030 to conserve biodiversity is mere window-dressing to enable Western capitalism to annex over 80 per cent of Africa’s landmass.

Published

on

Stealthy, Surreptitious Second Coming of Western Colonialism to Africa

In November 1884, European powers (represented by elderly white men) met in Berlin presuming to divide amongst themselves the large “cake” that was the African continent. It was a looting mission that later morphed into a political exercise, and the rest as they say, is history. An interesting footnote is that the conference lasted a whole three months until February 1885, indicating that the discussions must have been quite protracted, and probably interspersed with copious amounts of food, drink and debauchery (a feature of conferences that hasn’t changed much, over a century later!)

Fast forward to 21st Century Africa. The much-touted Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC2022) has been held in Kigali, Rwanda. Myself and others have already written and spoken extensively about how “Protected Areas” are actually “white spaces” in a majority black continent. During the colonial era, they were literally spaces set aside for the recreation of white people. In the post-independence era, the spectrum of users now includes black people, but they are still lily-white in terms of the paranoid, prejudiced, violent and intellectually stunted manner of their management.

This mentality is the “white” identity of conservation practice in Africa today. The practitioners have made many attempts to mask this identity, by creating strange mongrels referred to as “conservancies” of various kinds, but the concept is the same: annex land from indigenous African people who use it for their livelihoods and set it aside for the self-actualization of foreign elites.

Africa is fabulously wealthy in natural resources, but we must always remember that the value of the visible above ground resources is a mere fraction of what lies underneath. Sadly, the spectacular beauty of our wildlife, forests and rangelands makes them the perfect window-dressing for the cruel schemes laid out against us as a continent. The brutality of slavery and colonialism showed us the cruelty that exists within the matrix of Western capitalism. Laws and regulations have obviously been written in the last 100 years, but it we must remember that colonialism was a capitalist enterprise and it would be naïve in the extreme to imagine that capitalism had somehow lost its cruelty.

Africa is fabulously wealthy in natural resources, but we must always remember that the value of the visible above ground resources is a mere fraction of what lies underneath

The new dispensation only required that they apply new and more sophisticated methods and voila! Enter the climate change/carbon trade/conservation cult. It’s a perfect vehicle because it is pervasive, running in a contiguous vein through corporations, governments, civil society and even global bodies like the UN. Cult leaders (read: conservation “icons” like Goodall, Attenborough, et. al) have access to heads of state. Their greatest coup has been the so-called “30×30” plan, which is the ludicrous proposal that every country should put 30 per cent of their land under “protected areas” by the year 2030 to conserve biodiversity.

The “evil beauty” of this plan is that it has to be implemented in the global south, because there is no significant biodiversity gain to be made from expanding Regent’s Park in London or Central Park in Manhattan by 30 per cent. Everything is primed and ready to go. The adoption of this plan by the UN and governments smoothens out all the necessary regulatory hurdles, including by way of tax breaks in both the source and client states.

Once that is done, now all you need is a major conference like APAC2022 where you can blow all the dog-whistles against indigenous people and give all the apocalyptic alarmist statements about Africa (with no reference to the west where the real environmental destruction has been for the last 100 years). First, you pick a country like Rwanda that has formally decided that their greatest role in Africa will be as a European foothold on the continent (remember the UK refugees’ caper). Then you convene conservation organizations, practitioners, their corporate funders and governmental enablers. After a few days of lip service, drink and debauchery, you come up with a closing statement that includes a huge carrot and little substance and everybody leaves, struggling with the flatulence induced by excitement over the impending windfall.

One of the strangest parts of this excitement is that very little of the largesse actually finds its way to indigenous Africans. Most of it goes to expatriates from the donor countries, while Africans at all levels from heads of state to village elders are swayed with breadcrumbs in the form of business class air tickets, accommodation in luxury hotels, alcohol and per diem payments to attend meetings where they simply say “yes” to everything. The key point to note about this so-called conservation fund is that it proposes a “network” of a total of 8,600 conservation areas covering a total area of 26 million square kilometres. This is a startling figure, given that it is an area more than twice the size of the US, and represents more than 80 per cent of Africa’s land mass. How do these people subvert sovereign structures with such consummate ease? A simple tool known as “transboundary conservation areas”, conservation that purports to manage contiguous habitats across international boundaries.

We then find ourselves in a strange situation where non-state actors enjoy powers unheard of in state agencies, with untrammelled reach across international boundaries. An example of this power is the Big Life Foundation that operates across the Kenya-Tanzania border, enjoying access that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) cannot have. This is the nature of the new colonies. They fly under the radar by not following known boundaries, and within countries they exist as conservancies that don’t exist in law, don’t pay taxes and don’t register lands in their names.

We then find ourselves in a strange situation where non-state actors enjoy powers unheard of in state agencies, with untrammelled reach across international boundaries.

As the host of the conference, Rwanda has been the first signatory on this project and is taking leadership, asking other African countries to sign. With all due respect to that great nation, I don’t think that the owner of 0.0065 per cent of the protected areas in question should assume leadership of the same. This however reveals another well-practiced annexation technique of the conservation organizations—eliminating the individual opinions of nations and people by lumping them together into “projects” and “communities”. The colonists are here, again to stake a claim on our birthright. The other tried and tested technique is the relentless drive to evaluate our lands in terms of this strange thing they refer to as “carbon”.

What most Africans don’t realize about “carbon” credits, sequestration, sinks, etc., is that it is a tool for eliminating the natives from any discussions or calculations about the said land. They aren’t the fat old white men we see in the artists’ impressions of the Berlin conference. Many of them look like us, speak our languages, many are young, and many are women too, and they claim to be saviours. The methods and faces are certainly new, but the avarice and corruption remains unchanged, 137 years later. Despite myself, I must grudgingly acknowledge the historical correctness of holding the conference in Rwanda, part of what used to be German East Africa. Aluta Continua.

Continue Reading

Op-Eds

Rejection by Their Own People Is a Fitting End to the Kenyatta Family’s Reign of Hubris, Blunder, Plunder, Squander and Abracadabra

In the Aug. 9 Kenyan polls, Azimio coalition backed by Pres. Uhuru Kenyatta was whitewashed in the key Mt Kenya region. Prior to the elections, the chickens had already been counted — Mt Kenya would overwhelmingly vote blue. The Kenyattas costly assumed that victory was certain but were left smarting, asking “why have the Kikuyu people turned against us?”

Published

on

Rejection by Their Own People Is a Fitting End to the Kenyatta Family’s Reign of Hubris, Blunder, Plunder, Squander and Abracadabra

About a month to the August 9, 2022 elections, a Kikuyu elder man was ushered in the offices of Enke Ltd, at the Chancery Building, uptown Nairobi, on Valley Road. Enke Ltd is one of the Kenyatta family’s flagship companies.

The man had an appointment with the princely Muhoho Kenyatta, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s younger brother, the behind-the-scenes political schemer and smooth operator, who rarely appears in the media and who, has the ear of the family’s matriarch, the all-powerful Mama Ngina Kenyatta.

The man had gone to discuss among other things the upcoming elections, with special reference to Mt Kenya region. “Let us be candid with the truth”, the man said to Muhoho. “Things have not been okay in the Mt Kenya region…the people of Mt Kenya have been in a very bad mood, in a very long time and all indications show that they will rebel against President Uhuru’s backed coalition, come the general election.”

The flashy office that the man had been let into, had many television sets mounted on the wall. “How do you intend to overturn this anger against the government and more specifically, against the Kenyatta family? Posed the man, to an intently listening and quiet Muhoho. “Whatever you need to do, you need to do it very fast, because time is of the essence and it is not your side.”

A bemused Muhoho possibly couldn’t believe what the man was talking about: Is this what you came here for, to tell me inconsequential stories, the aristocratic second-born son of the most powerful political matriarch in Kenya must have wondered to himself. “So-and-so be calm, and take it easy; I’m not sure you understand Mt Kenya politics and therefore know what you’re talking about,” retorted Muhoho.

“Turn your eyes to the screens,” Muhoho ordered the man, “What do you see? All those screens, what do they show? Do you all see all those blue marked regions? Those are our votes. What do you mean the (Mt Kenya) people are not with us? The mounted screens showed large swathes of Mt Kenya would vote blue, Azimio la Umoja coalition’s colour. The chairman of Azimio is Muhoho’ elder brother, the outgoing President Uhuru.

Azimio’s presidential flagbearer is Raila Amolo Odinga, Uhuru’s erstwhile, fiercest opposition leader, now turned bosom buddy. In the just ended presidential election, Azimio coalition was whitewashed in the Mt Kenya region. So humiliatingly did it perform in the region, that President Uhuru couldn’t even deliver his own Mutomo location, in Kiambu County, to Raila. Martha Karua, Raila’s designated running mate, equally couldn’t persuade her own former Gichugu constituents, leave alone Kirinyaga County as a whole, to rally behind her boss.

Contrary to what Muhoho’s screens were displaying, Mt Kenya voters in the election painted the region so yellow, the colour of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and the sponsoring party of the Kenya Kwanza coalition presidential candidate William Ruto, that Azimio losers in the region are still smarting from the defeat. If there is any hue of blue in Mt Kenya region, one must truly look for it, as one would look for a needle in a haystack, to use the hackneyed idiom.

“Those votes you’re talking about are on your screens, on the ground it is a different matter, I’m telling you the votes are yellow and you better listen to me,” replied Muhoho’s guest. “Believe all you want about those virtual votes on the smart screens, the real votes are on the ground and that’s where the battle will be won or lost, not on diagrams posted on the screens.”

Muhoho must have been flustered by his guest’s insistency and matter of fact statements, but he wasn’t going to let a great opportunity pass him without dishing to the senior visitor some nuggets of wisdom. “My dear friend, listen, let me educate you a little bit, because I think you don’t seem to understand these things. We the Kenyattas tell Kikuyus what to do, they follow our commands. This will not be the first time we’ll be doing so. Let that matter rest. We’ll talk after August 9.”

Many eons ago, the Greeks came up with a word for this kind of attitude and behaviour – Hubris. If you like, simply in English idiomatic language, pride that comes before a fall.

At just around the same time Muhoho was having an animated altercation with his guest, President Uhuru also ushered some Kikuyu elders in one of State House’s inner offices. They were part of a large team that had been invited to the pre-independence governor’s mansion on the hill.

Before meeting the large team, Uhuru wanted to have a word with the select elders. “I want you guys to declare the 1969 oath invalid, are we together?” Used to having his way and commanding people around, including men, the age of his avuncular uncle, he wanted an instant answer, like instant coffee.

“That would be all so well,” replied the gentlemen, “But that would involve a cultural process, because de-oathing people as you might well be aware is not a simple matter. We’ve to do it at the (Mukurwe wa Nya Gathanga) shrine. Rituals have to be performed, sacrifices have to be offered…is there time to do this?” Instead of listening to the elders and possibly coming up with a solution, he did what he does best under such circumstances – he snapped and stormed out of the office.

To the Kenyattas, it’s either my way, or the highway. The elders felt humiliated by a younger elder, albeit the president, who, to some of the senior elders, could be their last-born brother. The elders had also wanted to tell the president that all was not well on the ground: the water was salty and therefore undrinkable, but as they came to realise, well, too late in the day, it’s very difficult to engage the Kenyattas.

In February 2022, a mzee friend of mine was summoned by the matriarch nonagenarian Mama Ngina, because she wanted to have a word with him. “We had not spoken for such a long time, I wondered what it is that she wanted from me,” said my septuagenarian friend. After the usual prolonged pleasantries and greetings, the matriarch quickly delved into the subject matter at hand. “So-and-so, why have the Kikuyu people turned against us? Us, being the Kenyatta family.

“Mama Ngina couldn’t understand why a people they have lorded over for 50 years could (suddenly) rebel against the family,” the mzee would later confide in me. “To her, some malevolent forces were inciting the Kikuyus – ‘this is unlike them,’ Mama Ngina averred, do you have a clue what’s going on she asked me.”

The Kenyatta family has treated the Kikuyus like their slaves for so long, they assumed they owned them, said mzee. “The Kikuyus have had grievances for a long time, but the Kenyattas must have assumed, like they always do, that this time they were malingering.” I met the mzee a week after the elections; “now that the shit has hit the fan, the Kenyattas are all flabbergasted.”

Many years back, a central Kenya politician, now a former MP once told me, how one time they were drinking in a members’ only club that was also patronised by some of the Kenyatta family members. Inebriated and dropping his guard down, one of the close-knit relative let it be known that the family considered the Kikuyu people as their serfs.

“We didn’t want to believe what we had heard, I mean, some of us had always suspected what the family thought about the rest of us, but to vocalise it to all and sundry, really was a faux pas,” said the former MP.

So, it is that President Uhuru took to the Kikuyu vernacular airwaves from the precincts of State House, 72 hours to the election, believing that he would, with his wisdom, sway the Mt Kenya people from voting for Ruto and heed his call at the 12th hour and vote for his frenemy Raila.

Continue Reading

Trending