Tag Archives: Tribalism

Kenya’s Red Line Train Ride

Hmmm…after the events of this week, I am now convinced the Kenyan government is taking us on a tumultuous train ride to Nowhere Land. They are playing us like the ukulele while at it too. We currently have a digital government whose key security (and everything else really) strategies are speculation and the blame game. I am not sure how they figure they can propel a country forward based on such. How are we expected to continue entrusting them with our lives when they have repeatedly shown they cannot be asked to ensure the safety of Kenyans?

This past Sunday, al Shabaab linked militants attacked Mpeketoni, a Kenyan coastal town, killing at least 49  people and injuring several others. They also set buildings and other property on fire. That attack lasted for hours. On Monday, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Mail & Guardian, in a statement sent to Reuters, al Shabaab said, “Commandos last night carried out a successful raid on the town of Mpeketoni.” They added, “Kenya is now officially a war zone and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril.” The reasons they gave for the attack are the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia and the extrajudicial killings of Muslim leaders.

Joseph Ole Lenku, the cabinet secretary in charge of interior security, came out with the full force of a circus act, describing the attack as “heinous”, calling the attackers “bandits” and stating that they had crossed a “red line.” Which red line, you ask? Well, guess we might never know since Ole Lenku didn’t display any of Netanyahu’s illustration skills, but I digress. He then claimed that security had been beefed up across the country after the attack, and the attackers had been chased northwards by security forces. Basically, rest easy Kenyans, the government has your back NOT.

The militants called bullshit on this security facade by returning a day later. They must have known what we now know…the government stayed asleep. This time they attacked Poromoko, a village close to Mpeketoni. They killed at least 15 people and set houses on fire. Residents told the BBC that at least 12 women were abducted in the latest attack. They also said that the government did not send in enough forces to protect them after the first attack. Evidence that Ole Lenku was putting on a show. Only he knows who it was for.  Al Shabaab also claimed responsibility for this attack.

This is where the circus plot gets lost.

In an address to the nation, President Uhuru decided that this was an opportunity to gain political mileage. He went in on “reckless” and “divisive” leaders hell-bent on creating hate and intolerance. He also said that such leaders make it easy for terrorists to operate in our country. He then stated, “The attack in Lamu was well planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons. This therefore, was not an Al Shabaab terrorist attack.”  Eh…say what!? Wait just one minute Mr. President. Didn’t al Shabaab claim responsibility for both attacks!? Or are they lying to us? If so, to what end? We have had several unclaimed attacks, why would they pick this one out of all of them to claim!? Something does not add up here. Who is fooling who, sir? And while we are on the subject of profiling and evicting people for political reasons…isn’t that the same thing your government is doing to ethnic Somalis?

President Uhuru further added, “Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of the heinous attacks.” Ok…you have evidence but yet no arrests have been made? What is being done to ensure that those involved in the planning and execution will face justice? What about the abducted women? Do the local political networks have them? Are security forces looking for them?

Perhaps one of the most disturbing statements that President Uhuru made is. “It is now clear that intelligence on this attack was availed to the security officers in Mpeketoni.” What!? In short, the attacks could have been prevented but they weren’t. Why, Mr. President, why? Why was there no action taken? What were security officers doing? Sitting on the intelligence and hoping nothing would happen? Or do they lack the resources required to act on such intelligence? Just what exactly is going on Mr. President? Or intelligence isn’t acted upon until the “red line” has been crossed? I would assume that the possibility of Kenyans losing their lives would result in action but apparently the government would rather cling to inaction.

Of course the President had to throw in this usual statement, “I am satisfied that for the most part, our security agencies have performed well and thwarted innumerable terrorist and other criminal conspiracies and attempts.” Every time there is an attack, the President makes a similar statement. He makes it seem like the security agencies are on top of their game. So how come they missed all the attacks that have happened!? Why weren’t they able to thwart those particular attacks? If security agencies are performing well, why aren’t some of them acting on the intelligence they are provided with!?

At the end of the day, President Uhuru and the rest of the government, all we want is to be safe. We want to be able to move around the country without fear. Security in our country has gone to the dogs…that is undeniable. Whether the attacks are orchestrated by local political networks or terrorist groups, the bottom line is insecurity is on the rise. It is your responsibility to protect the inhabitants of the country that you lead. We can be each other’s keepers, as you suggested in your address Mr. President, all day every day. But if we have security forces that fail to act on intelligence and a government that couldn’t care less about its citizenry, then how is that useful to us?

When a handful of countries in the West issued travel advisories, our government was up in arms. “We will find tourists elsewhere,” they said. When it became obvious that more countries were unwilling to remain silent as their citizens travelled to our attack-prone nation, the rhetoric changed to “Tembea Kenya.” Domestic tourism is great and should in fact always be encouraged and promoted.  However, it does to not deter attacks.

Now that you have realized that Kenyans are after all not bulletproof, what are you going to do about these attacks, dear government? How many lives have to be lost before you cut the BS and actually come up with an effective plan to put an end to these attacks!?



Kenya and Elections Lemonade

Kenya held elections recently. The process itself was largely peaceful. There were countable incidents of disturbance, but hey, Rome was not built in a day. Voters turned out in large numbers forming queues of unprecedented lengths. (Although word on the street is that Coop Bank members are used to such…I digress). The patience with which Kenyans waited for the results (elections were held on Monday and results were officially announced on Saturday) is something to write many a journal articles about. The only problem is that the status quo carried they day.

If social media and daily conversations were anything to go by, then Kenya would have a different president- somebody new if you will- or at the very least someone with a SMART plan of moving the country forward. Instead we have an old guard-in the sense that he has been recycled through the political machine a number of times. Moreover, the president-elect and his deputy have cases pending against them at the ICC. I guess that’s the something new in our presidency.

The results of this election made one thing clear- we, as a nation, are several election cycles away from issue-based politics. The ongoing discussions about the presidential results in print, broadcast and social media emphasize our tendency to vote along ethnic lines. We are of the mentality that our lives will only get better if a person from our community is in a key leadership position.

Our previous presidents are partly responsible for this. Their presidencies were all based on patronage. Positions of power were allocated not to the qualified but those who had pledged undying allegiance. They assumed office and immediately forgot that they were sworn in as “President of Kenya” and not “President of Region X.” They went about developing their towns and those that their cronies belonged to. All the while we sat and watched. At the end of the day we left believing that the only way our communities would be uplifted is if our fellow tribesman is the president.

The tactic employed by the previous presidents was perhaps a self-preservation mechanism. However, it isolated communities from each other, created animosity, brewed fear and fueled an ethnic divide that will take generations to bridge. By so doing, these presidents and their shadows cemented our “it’s our turn to eat” mentality. A mentality that has further been solidified by the utterances of leaders who thrive on divisive politics. Think about it, a few individuals have done this to our country.  Why do we continuously let them? Why do we allow them to turn us against each other? Are we really that afraid of getting rid of the status quo?

We held our first presidential debate this year. Did anyone ever think we would see the day when all the presidential aspirants would gather in one room and present their case? I certainly didn’t. It was a great moment to be Kenyan! Such pride we all felt. Millions tuned in to hear what the aspirants had to say. They were prepared too. Sure there were some fumbles and allergic-to-answering-questions moments but for the most part they took it seriously. For the first time it seemed that they finally understood that Kenyans hold the key to State House.

During that debate period voters seemed to be more interested in the proposed solutions to our country’s issues rather than ethnic allegiance. Post-debate discussions  were vibrant, complete with analyses of the feasibility of each candidate’s action plan. Change was imminent. So what happened between the debates and Election Day?

Well, some call it the tyranny of numbers. Others claim that the election was simply a referendum against the ICC. There are several other theories out there. The jury is still out on this blogger’s theory.

We have already seen what our leaders are capable of. It’s time for us to hold them accountable- all of them not just the president and his deputy. We need to take the initiative to find out what they promised and ensure that they deliver. It’s time to speak out against injustices not just against our fellow tribesmen but against Kenyans. The effects of poverty, illiteracy, human rights abuse and underdevelopment do not discriminate based on tribe.

Yes, the status quo carried the day, but by holding them accountable we can ensure that the days of empty promises are well behind us. We can put every aspiring politician on notice – let them know that leadership is for serious contenders and it’s no longer an avenue for self-enrichment. All the institutions we say we want to change/reform are run by human beings. Once we change our individual mindsets then we will be able to change institutions.

We have a long way to go as a country but I believe that change starts with each of us. We can no longer afford to leave the future of our country in the hands of a select few. As Dida said, “I have seen tough life until I got tired. Everyday things would get tougher until I gave myself two options – either flee the country or remain and become an agent of change. I chose the latter.”

The candidates who won (whether it was your preferred candidate or not) made many promises. We collectively have to ensure that they keep each and every one of them. Keep a scorecard and call them out on their lies. In the next election, pull out the scorecard and take note of who did what, when and how. Then use your vote to show the jokers exactly where the door is. The ballot revolution has only begun. Yes, this is definitely one of those make lemonade out of lemons moments.