Tuesday, January 22, 2008

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Mukoma Wa Ngugi on Kenya: Let us not find revolutionaries where there are none

Mukoma Wa Ngugi writes:

"One cannot fully grasp what is happening in Kenya and Africa without considering the changing nature of opposition movements and the differences between a people powered movement, or a democratic revolution, and a plethora of movements that consolidate democratic institutions for international capital while flying under the radar of democracy

"In Kenya, both the sitting Government and the opposition exchange members fluidly as they position and reposition themselves, eyes on the national cake.

"Even though here below I am mainly speaking about Raila Odinga and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), I could just as easily be speaking about Mwai Kibaki and the Party of National Unity (PNU).

"It is only because ODM has actively courted the image of being a people powered movement engaged in a democratic revolution that I draw your attention to it. Amilcar Cabral once said ‘tell no lies, claim no small victories.’ It is in that spirit that I write.

"Let me begin by pointing to the question of ethnicity and say this: In the same way you ought to be surprised to meet a white American denying the existence of racism in American politics, so should you be when you meet an African denying that ethnocentrism is deeply entrenched in African politics. Racism is a historical creation that serves a function – so is ‘tribalism’. In the same way that leaders in the West manipulate race and fear for political goals, so do African leaders. Ethnocentrism can be benign or extremely vicious depending on its conductor. Ethnocracy, like a racist power structure, exists to the extent it is able to obscure for the victim and the activist the root causes of economic, political and social exploitation. It misdirects.

"Let us also consider Kwame Ture’s (Stokely Carmichael) reminder that we should not mistake individual success for collective success. The majority of Kenyans – Luos, Kikuyus, Luhyas etc – are poor. The 60 per cent of Kenyans living under two dollars a day cut across all ethnicities. The Kikuyu élite live at the expense of the Kikuyu poor; it is the same for other ethnicities. There is much more in common between the poor across ethnicities, than between the élite and the poor of each ethnicity.

"Racism, nationalism, and ethnocracy all ask that the poor die in the defense of economic and social structures that keep them poor. It is no surprise that those who have been both dying and doing the killing in Kenya in the past week are the poor. Yet they are killing along ethnic, not class, lines...."

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