By Dorcas Sarkozy
Below are summarized and paraphrased excerpts from “Kenya: Between Hope & Despair” by Daniel Branch and “Kenya: A History Since Independence” by Charles Hornsby.
The excerpts offer a window in why some regions (and tribes) in Kenya were excluded from “matunda ya uhuru” and why the boycotts of the likes of Safaricom, Brookside, Commercial Bank of Africa etc. IS a game-changer IF sustained.
“…..after independence, Kenyans were angered by the exacerbation of social inequality…..(because) the land transfer program had been corrupted by the elites…..Rather than subdivide the land…..(it) was purchased and quickly resold to (those) Kenyatta was keen to retain within (his) network of patronage.” – Daniel Branch
Charles Hornsby then adds that “all Kenyans agreed that inequality was growing (faster) than the economy…..with Kikuyus particularly notorious for their closed business practices …..and emulation of the colonialists (way of conducting business)…..The sugar industry adopted high-labor input methods to ensure local employment …..” while simultaneously (a) politicizing the sector and (b) exposing it to the vagaries of globalization.
The close links between business, political and security elites is seen in companies such as African Liaison & Consulting Services Ltd. – Gethi, Kanyotu, McKenzie and Gecau – whose shareholders included Moi and Kibaki.
At the top of the very stratified Kenyan society were a few dozen, mainly Kikuyu families who made their money under Jomo Kenyatta in the 60s and 70s – Kenyatta, Ndegwa (CBK), Wanjui, Michuki and the investment trio of Njonjo, Kiereini & Kanyotu.
The second tier were those who made money under Moi in the 80s and 90s – Biwott, Kulei, Kotut and “favored sons” Saitoti, Kirubi and Sam Gichuru.
With the proceeds these families amassed while they were in power (or close to it), they set out to diversify/build their empires including media – print, TV and radio and the budding mobile phones and internet sector. KPTC set up Safaricom in 1997 and sold 40% to Vodafone for $30M with rumors that Biwott and Gideon Moi had commercial interests in Safaricom….”
Hornsby concludes that “forty years after Kenyatta became president……the 11 richest constituencies in Kenya 2004 were all in Central Province of which the top four were in Kiambu…..” He alludes to the fact that Kenya’s ethnic-driven politics has undermined and shackled its development with corruption, cronyism and non-economic decision-making – especially in regions seen as unfriendly to the rulers of the day.
Is it any wonder that Safaricom is smack in the middle of the machinations Kenyans have seen with their electronic voting system and does it surprise anyone that Uhuru Kenyatta publicly offered to “protect” the wealth of the late Nicholas Biwott?
The boycott AND the relentless agitation for free, fair and transparent elections change the foregoing paradigm and Jubilants know that.
I try not to speak ill of the dead but there is also never a good time to reflect on AND discuss one’s life – in an honest and critical way – so that those left behind can learn from the trajectory of the life of the dearly departed.
There are images depicting the casket of the late helicopter pilot Apollo Malowa, supposedly being delivered to his final resting place – a homestead consisting of (two) grass-thatched/mud-walled huts that in the words of many comments on social media, belie his profession as a helicopter pilot even as it – homestead – speak to his “Luo-ness”.
The lack of respect in the subsequent comments on the thread are right up there with the quote by Jubilee Party Vice Chairman David Murathe who claims that Nasa-rites do not “have any stakes in (the Kenyan) economy” hence their willingness to boycott, disrupt or destroy it – the economy that is.
The disrespect, arrogance and inflated sense of entitlement embodied in Murathe’s comment and those on the thread also hide the incontrovertible facts listed above; facts that also explain why Jubilants and their fellow “business community” members are willing to kill and maim to stay in power.
On the other hand, beyond Murathe’s infantile jingoism is an equally incontrovertible fact:
Nasa-rites must up their game re: building wealth and developing/improving their immediate space and respective communities.
I detest pretty much everything about Jomo Kenyatta.
He was a conniving murderer who usurped funds/land meant to resettle the displaced mostly Kikuyu freedom fighters. Jomo, however, also realized the import of amassing wealth – by any and all means necessary. This is a trait he passed onto his wife Mama Ngina and their children and like they say, the rest is history.
The boycott and resistance is going to offer opportunities for many hitherto shut-out businessmen and businesswomen.
The same insider, most-favored status that afforded Jubilee’s “moguls”, “industrialists” “hardworking business community” total unencumbered access to and control of markets, insider information, ease of capital and of registering and/or licensing business is now available to Nasa-rites in the areas boycotting businesses linked to the oligarchs.
Additionally, the same protection afforded the “favored sons” (and daughters) of the old and new moneyed crowd is now available to the hitherto shunned sons and daughters of the lake and coastal regions.
Now it’s up to us Nasa-rites to seize these opportunities and improve our respective communities like we know we can – as demonstrated by our sons and daughters – albeit on the global stage – away from the ethnicity-induced mediocrity at home.