WHEN THE PROGRESSIVES STEPPED OUT OF SAFETY.

Saturday the 21st February 2015 was a proud day for Kenya when her sons and daughters assembled at Chester house to talk about the well-being of her soul.

Those who came were ordinary Kenyans of all ages drawn from all segments of society and regions.  They were gathered out of the growing realization that the welfare of Kenya should concern all Kenyans.

It is out of this patriotic sense of duty immanent in a majority of Kenyans that the social media has grown as an avenue for sharing information.  It is also a platform for constructive criticism in the hope that the birds would carry these millions of opinions posted daily from  the facebook posts and tweets to the men and women entrusted with the leadership of the nation at the various levels.

Many Kenyans would agree that many of the progressive  ideas generated on social media often end up wasted. They fall casualties to time, boredom and amnesia. It therefore means that the discussion must be taken out of social media onto the streets, churches, mosques, schools, hospitals, universities, slums, villages, banking halls and offices.

Those who stepped out of safety  to attend the assembly of progressive voices this Saturday did so knowing that Kenya has millions of silent progressives.  Millions who believe that tribe has no role in the future of Kenya.  Millions who wish that values could replace wealth as a measure of leadership. Millions who want to see the trillions of tax shillings that trouble our ears and brains every budget day translate into services.

The majority of these millions of Kenyans have no interest in joining elective politics but a strong interest in seeing the correct leadership in place. Many hope for a day when election  day will be a challenge not because there is no ideal choice on the ballot but because all the choices are ideal. The latter is obviously a better challenge.

The call for Kenyans to GO BEYOND TWITTER has a spirit that is bigger than its letters.  It is the spirit that is vividly and dramatically captured in the Se tswana concept of ‘botho’ expressed as ‘motho ke motho ka batho’ (I am because you are). It is the spirit that drives one to develop a deep sense of another persons humanity.

It is the  spirit behind the Swahili concept of uungwana whose anti-thesis is ushenzi.  It inspires us to unconsciously exercise the golden rule – doing to others what you would wish done to you.

This is the new foundation for Kenya that the forum GO BEYOND TWITTER was brave enough to lay the first stone this past Saturday.

Laying  this foundation stone is only the first step in the reconstruction of the Kenyan soul. It could be another 100 years and several generations until such a Kenya that we dream about is created. It could also happen in our own generation. It depends on you and me. The balance between our interest and indifference will make all the difference.

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#GoBeyondTwitter

#GoBeyondTwitter

Tomorrow the 21st February 2015, an assembly of kenyans drawn from all walks of life will converge at Chester house.

The kenyans will include young professionals, trade unionists, civil society, private sector , university students and opinion leaders from all sectors of society. Simply it will be an open conference of patriotic minds.

It is an assembly of Kenyans who believe that through their effort backed by like minded citizens, we can propel the nation towards that bright horizon where tribe is not the central pillar of the Nation.

The assembly of progressive voices will dare to question our national priorities and national values. It will question the growing cult of wealth as the sole determinant of our humanity and it’s accumulation the second most important determinant of leadership after tribe.

The assembly shall boldly explore the possibility that our generation can mould the nation in the image of our dreams – dreams that are so often expressed on social media but which in the absence of a platform must be deferred hence falling victim to the possibilities contemplated by Langston Hughes in the poem ‘a dream deferred’.

This is a forum for every kenyan who has come close to giving up and grudgingly has had to conform to the status quo because doing otherwise sometimes looks as daunting as the 5th labour that confronted Hercules when he had to clean the stables of king Augean that had not been cleaned for 30 years.

It is a summit of kenyans who believe that in the absence of citizen effort to pull kenya away from the brink is to risk a second coming of strife as witnessed in 2008.

It is a forum for those who are ready to start a difficult conversation. A conversation that will put to trial the conscience of a nation and serve as the defence of our generation before the tribunal of history.

You can be part of this exciting endeavour because you are invited.

If you want to be counted as one who is in the arena as opposed to a mere critic, Chester house is the place to be on 21st February 2015 at 2.00pm. #GoBeyondTwitter

LETS FACE IT, MUGABE IS NO HERO.

In the Sunday Nation newspaper of 8/02/2015 (yesterday), renown columnist Mutiga Murithi penned a controversial article on the legacy of president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

On reading the title of his article,  ‘Mugabe is a hero to many…’ I had every reason to think that Mutiga was simply playing satire but I was rudely proved wrong soon enough.

As I read further, It became apparent that the writer was either on a mission to save Mugabe’s shattered legacy or was simply playing the devil’s advocate to stimulate debate for the sake of debate. I pray he intended the latter because the repercussions of the former are too grave to fathom.

When discussing Mugabe, we find ourselves facing the temptation to give him a small benefit of doubt based on two circumstances. The first dividend derives from his role in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle for which he was imprisoned for 11 years.

Robert Mugabe fought a long liberation struggle against an oppressive white minority regime led by imperialist Ian Smith. For this struggle he earned a place at the high table of African greats such as Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba and many other founding fathers.

The question at hand is whether Mugabe should still maintain his position at this high table or whether his glaring failures in leading  Zimbabwe disqualify him from sitting on the august  council of Africa’s venerable patriarchs.

The second reason for cutting Mugabe some slack is his consistency in churning out venomous anti-western rhetoric. When you watch the videos of Mugabe at the UN general assembly one is often tempted to applaud him for the guts ‘to stand up to the west’. Truth be told when Mugabe criticizes the composition of the UN security council , you can hardly fault him for it.

Is Mugabe’s criticism based on a genuine love for Africa and Zimbabwe? should Africa hail Robert Mugabe as a great pan-africanist who had the courage to repossess stolen land from white Zimbabweans? Should we band around Mugabe in  telling off the western media and its machinery for carrying on with sustained propaganda to bring down a great African? Are all the woes facing Zimbabwe a result of western sanctions? Is Mugabe the natural heir to the throne of Nelson Mandela?

Well the answers  lie in what you find in a careful dissection of the style of Mugabe’s leadership since the independence of Zimbabwe.

The first and most important part of Mugabe’s troubled legacy is that he has presided over Zimbabwe for the past 35 donkey years. This implies that he has been living  in statehouse for longer than most of us have lived on earth. This  further means that a young man of my age living in Zimbabwe has only known one president, the founding father.

During the period of Mugabe’s presidency;  Kenya has had 3 different presidents, the US  has had five presidents while Britain has had 5 prime ministers and south Africa has had 5 different presidents, four of them post-independence.

Well someone will ask, what is the big deal? He is voted by the people of Zimbabwe. What business do we have interfering with the internal affairs of a sovereign nation?

The response is easy. Even a casual glance at the history of Zimbabwe reveals that Mugabe has run one of the most undemocratic, repressive regimes known to mankind.

Soon after Independence, Mugabe went on a mission to ruthlessly crush his opponents using the most barbaric means imaginable.

The Mugabe regime employed state apparatus and mercenaries to instill terror in the opposition stronghold of matebeleland through a campaign that was christened ‘GUKURAHUNDI’ (the sweeping away of rubbish). Farms were destroyed and a food embargo slapped on the opposition regions that led to deaths of tens of thousands from systematic starvation. This inhumane policy from the 80s was repeated in the 2000s when the government stopped food  from reaching MDC supporters. The then catholic archbishop of Bulawayo hit out at the Mugabe regime accusing it of sacrificing peoples lives for the sake of political power.

This authoritarian style in the 1980s silenced  ZAPU and its leader Joshua Nkomo .A repeat of similar tactics in the 2000s disabled the Movement for Democratic Change – MDC and its leader Morgan TSVANGIRAI. This has paved the way for a one party state (official or de facto) in which Mugabe is Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe is Mugabe – the King, the judge and the law.

The political philosophy of Mugabe in Zimbabwe has been very  clear; Anybody who does not support ZANU-PF is not just a political enemy but an animal that does not deserve to live. After the 1985 election, Mugabe said of those who had not voted for his party, ‘We will kill those snakes among us, we will smash them completely’.

Intolerance and violence in Zimbabwe follows the same script and often reaches a zenith during elections. It is doubtful whether Zimbabweans have ever had a single democratic election since their independence election back in 1979.

Although Mugabe was thought of as a socialist, his rule has exposed a fascist with a natural contempt for the poor whose poverty has been exacerbated by his rule. Following the 2005 parliamentary elections, the government of Mugabe launched another operation dubbed ‘MURAMBATSVINA’ in which armed police and youth militia were mobilized to evict the inhabitants of Harares slums and raze their homes. This operation also targeted hawkers and flower vendors in Harares CBD. A United Nations investigation established that more than 700,000 mostly poor Zimbabweans lost their homes and 32,000 mostly small businesses were destroyed. The crime of these poor souls being that they had voted for the opposition in the 2005 election.

You cannot talk of a democratic election in an environment in which opposition supporters are rounded up, whipped and even killed. How can any political party campaign against a president who has changed the law to make it impossible to criticize? How can it be a free election when the president changes an election from a celebration of democracy into a war with real casualties? . How are the people supposed to cast votes freely when the army commanders declare that they will not recognize any other victory apart from  a win by the sitting president?

Ahead of the 2008 general election in Zimbabwe, the main opposition party could not even hold a political rally and any attempt to do so was met with state sanctioned police brutality. Robert Mugabe’s main opponent was physically assaulted in a shameful show of impunity. Mugabe himself admitted that he had instructed the police to beat tsvangirai a lot. There was so much violence in this election that the opposition leader withdrew his candidature from the second round even after he had led in the first round. Many observers support the claim by the MDC that Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of the Zimbabwe presidential election in 2008 but the electoral commission fixed the result at 47.5% for Morgan and 43% for Mugabe to force a re-run.

Our respect for Robert Mugabe should be limited to his age and his role in the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe. However , it is too late in the day to save his legacy.

The true spirit of pan-africanism must be accurate on the values espoused by the majority of africans. It must acknowledge that there is no substitute for a democratic Africa. Our continent has so many great leaders that we should not appear as though we are desperate for role models.

The final script of the Mugabe legacy will undoubtedly be written by the people of Zimbabwe. However it is clear to us that Robert Mugabe failed to create a democratic, economically prosperous nation out of Zimbabwe.

PROGRESS CAN NEVER TOLERATE INTOLERANCE

In our struggle to become a united nation, several obstacles have continued to thwart our quest.

One such obstacle is undoubtedly tribalism . Just like you,  I have been involved in many discussions on tribalism. Most of them will quickly degenerate into a blame game with the politician on the receiving end.

While the politician remains indicted for his tribal dance moves, we must concede  that it’s the mwananchi who is playing the tribal music.

The ordinary Kenyan thrives on irrational love and irrational hate. .’While irrational love may at worst engender foolish acts of indiscretion,’  Chinua Achebe warns that ‘irrational hate can endanger the life of a community’ It is our failure to heed this warning that led to the Kenyan conflict of 2008.

Why are Kenyans including the young and the educated so intolerant in a century that demands the opposite?

This past week social media has been ablaze with accusations directed at Abraham Mutai who recently made headlines for exposing corruption in Isiolo for which he was arrested and detained.

Abraham Mutai , going by the twitter handle @ItsMutai  is accused of having attended the recent African Union summit in Addis Ababa on alleged government sponsorship.

Despite him showing the invitation letter from the AU which invited him to attend the meeting as a journalist, the attacks have gone on and nearly gone viral.

This wave of attacks serves to reveal an archaic political culture that for long has remained polluted with despicable intolerance and militant extremism.

In this old and outdated model, the lines between the opposition and government are written in blood red. Supporters are then herded like cattle into holding pens that are styled as political parties when in essence they are no more than slave cages.

The culmination of this hate driven politics is that loyalty is measured by your capacity to be in agreement with all your party policies and positions no matter how obnoxious they are.

When in govt. the expectation is that you incessantly sing praises to the the government of the day like a parrot in a permanent trance of sycophancy.

Any attempt to see sense on the opposite side of the political divide is quickly met with preposterous accusations of impropriety.

There are parliaments on this planet, in which voting outside your political party’s preferred position is not viewed as a capital political offence.  On the contrary you may be praised as a maverick who places national interest above partisan positions.

If we were a country devoid of political intolerance, I would have expected to see several govt. MPs vote with opposition and some opposition members vote with government on the security bill last December. Such exercise of political maturity and patriotism appears like an abomination in Kenya.

The culture in our country that being in opposition means enmity to govt. and vice- versa is way past its ‘sell-by-date’ if it was ever palatable.

We don’t expect the govt to be always right and in that regard an opposition movement must offer an alternative policy.However, should the govt make the right call , shouldn’t a genuine opposition be honest even humble enough to applaud it? Again in this country honesty and humility often leads to political crucifixion.

Recently this policy of intolerance in the two major political movements was explicitly put on display during the call for a referendum on constitutional reforms. Both Jubilee and CORD coalitions threatened their members who would dare use their conscience before making a choice on whether to support the referendum or not with dire consequences including expulsion from either movement and loss of their seats. If you thought that such threats were so KANU, you share one more ideology with me.

We have unwittingly grown into a nation that criminalizes freedom of association.

Today, when an opposition member is seen in a photo with the president, they must quickly clarify (as did Hon. Hassan Omar Hassan ) or face allegations of being moles (as did happen to Hon Ababu Namwamba).

It makes me wonder how convictions built over a lifetime can all be lost in one moment of handshake with the president. In fact such a stance confers non-existent ‘mystical powers’ on the latter.

If our nation is going to enjoy the fruits of unity, progressive voices must loudly rise above petty and calculated extremism. We must assert that we can no longer tolerate intolerance.