Sunday, October 12, 2008



OCTOBER 12 1008

By Juma Kwayera

The hijacked arms cargo, supposedly in transit to Southern Sudan through the port of Mombasa, reinforced the perception Kenya could be among Africa’s undertakers. It is always available for hire to do a potential client’s dirty job for a pittance.

The hijack of the 33 tanks and assorted weapons two weeks ago kicked off international concerns, with Kenya coming off the worst after Government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, insisted the consignment, for which the Somalis were initially demanding a $20 million ransom, was destined for the country.

Irrefutable evidence has since confirmed the Government was doing someone else’s dirty job. The capture of the consignment exposed a trait, which since independence has been part of the country’s national culture — treachery.

A few examples will suffice. Faced with the prospect of not selling its salt and soda ash, the Government secretly used to do businesses with former South African apartheid and Israeli regimes despite an Organisation of African Unity (now African Union) diplomatic and trade sanctions treaty.

In 2002, a Turkish separatist movement leader, Abdalla Ocalan, was arrested in Kenya in circumstances that pointed to senior members of the Government having been compromised with hefty financial gifts.

Unrestricted access

The Kurdistan Workers Party leader was arrested on Kenyan territory despite the country being a signatory to the Geneva Convention that bars UN member states from repatriating asylum seekers if they risked persecution at home. However, if the Ocalan incident was a stinker of major proportions, the continued stay of Rwandan genocide suspect, Felicien Kabuga, should remind Kenyans that, in their country, crooks can walk in and out without Government officials batting an eye. Kabuga, indicted by the UN for the murder of nearly 800,000 Rwandans, is said to dine and wine with Kenya’s political class. He is a major ‘investor’, having put his money in real estate and transport. He has been in hiding since the UN Security Council indicted him 10 years ago.

The arrival of the Artur thugs — Sargasyan and Margaryan in 2005, who had unrestricted access to State House, showed just how the Government is steeped in the culture of swapping people’s lives with money.

In his book, Gideon’s Spies, investigative journalist with a bias for international espionage, Gordon Thomas has been able to point out, albeit inadvertently, that treachery and grub are part of Kenya’s prized culture that feeds impunity.

Thomas unearths how Kenya lent itself to international crime rings by accepting to run errands for them in exchange for monetary and other gifts.

The author describes how Kenya discreetly became the nerve-centre of destabilisation of the continent as a result of a ruling clique’s willingness to accept handouts from foreign governments and crime rings.

Plots hatched

Unbeknown to most Kenyans, a hangout once

frequented by Kenya’s business class and ruling elite, the Oasis Club, banned in the 1970s, was the crucible where some of the plots to destabilise African governments were hatched.

Cuba and China, the early callers who had a foothold in Kenya, recruited potential revolutionaries to overthrow West-leaning regimes in Uganda, Zaire (now DR Congo) and Zanzibar (before merger with Tanganyika to form Tanzania). Nairobi was ‘bribed’.

One of Cuba’s early surrogates was John Okello. Known as ‘Field Marshall Okello’, he was freighted to Havana and trained in elementary guerrilla warfare tactics. And when he returned, he was tasked with toppling the feudalist regime in Zanzibar. He did.

Writes Thomas: "The Oasis Club had become part of the battle for the hearts and minds of the African revolutionaries. The nights were filled with long discussions of how, without publicity, terrorism was a weapon firing blanks and the need to never lose sight of the ultimate freedom of independence. Within the club’s stifling atmosphere, plots were hatched, deals made, targets identified for execution or destruction."

Against this background, fraught with blackmail and sleaze, it came as no surprise that Kenya is involved in suspicious arms deals with Southern Sudan.

Granted, Southern Sudan’s political stability comes with a lot of benefits for Kenya. However, news that the semi-autonomous region is arming in readiness for combat with the Arab North is unsettling.