Friday, August 27, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

August 25, 2010

Those Kenyans claiming that the struggle for the Second Liberation started 20 years ago are either lying to Kenyans or they are ignorant of our recent history. This struggle did not even start in the 1980s as some clergies are now claiming. At that time, the struggle had claimed Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki and Kungu Karumba among others.

When in 1964 the Kenyatta regime disbanded the Senate, Regional Assemblies and consolidated the legislature, it was a sign that things would go terribly wrong. It was even more ominous when this arbitrary change of the constitutional order was never even referred to the people of Kenya to find out if they were comfortable with the amendments which literally took regional powers from them. Coupled with the fact that KADU the official opposition party was also persuaded to disband and join KANU under a defacto one party regime, it signaled the beginning of a government without a public watchdog.

It is instructive to note that soon after Kenya became a one party state, it took just one year for the nation to mourn the murder of its first political heavyweight, Pio Gama Pinto and two years before Jomo Kenyatta fell out with his Vice President, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga over the government policy on land ownership.

The fallout in Kanu that pitted Jaramogi against Mboya and Kenyatta could have been explained in simple terms as a petty rivalry between two Luo politicians jostling for power around Kenyatta. However, the truth was that theirs was on a point of ideological differences on how to share the resources of the new nation. Jaramogi could not understand how the new elite that had never fought for independence were being favored with White Highlands at the expense of real freedom fighters- the Mau Mau veterans.

When the KANU Special Delegates Conference of 1966 neutralized Jaramogi’s powers within KANU, he quit the party he had cofounded while Kenyatta was still in detention and formed his own party – the Kenya People’s Union, the first opposition party since the dissolution of KADU two years earlier. At that moment, Parliamentary standing orders and the constitution were very clear on the process of switching parties in Parliament. It was a question of crossing the floor to a party of one’s choice to signal that one had lost faith in his or her party.

The day Jaramogi entered Parliament as the leader of the new opposition party KPU, there was a near stampede on the floor of the house. Many MPs from all parts of the republic made attempts to cross the floor and indeed did and had it not been for the quick thinking of the likes of Mboya and Njonjo, Kenyatta’s government would have been dissolved in 1966. The duo came up with a creative amendment in the constitution and parliamentary standing orders stipulating that whoever crossed the floor to a party that never brought the member to Parliament must first resign and face a reelection under a new party. This move scared many would be defectors save for diehard ideologues like Bildad Kaggia, Achieng’ Oneko and Okello Odongo of Kisumu Rural among others from Eastern, Coast and Nyanza provinces.

As this intrigue robbed Jaramogi an automatic formidable voice in Parliament, more surprises were to wait for him at the Little General Elections of 1966. When KPU candidates presented their papers for nomination to the then Government appointed Election Supervisor, most KPU parliamentary and civic candidates were disqualified on technicality by the provincial administration that supervised the elections countrywide. This first known election rigging was carefully and cleverly executed by the then KANU Secretary General, Tom Mboya who went to all the affected constituencies to ensure there were no meaningful and fair elections in KPU strongholds. At the end of the day, Odinga ended up with less than 10 MPs in a parliament of about 80 members.

When Tom Mboya was assassinated three years later, the tragedy presented itself with a perfect opportunity to ban KPU, detain all its MPs and impose a curfew in Kisumu and Nyanza in general that lasted seven days. With opposition in parliament dead and Odinga in detention, it was now the turn of Odinga sympathizers like Bildad Kaggia and others in Nyanza to be purged. The era of the big man syndrome had finally arrived in Kenya.

Nyanza may have borne the brunt of the Kenyatta dictatorship as early as six years after independence but the fact remains that after Odinga’s KPU was disbanded, no other Kenyan from any part of the country had the courage to speak against the system until the early and mid 1970s when JM Kariuki appeared on the horizon. The charismatic JM’s clarion call was simple and clear. It was wrong to have 11 millionaires in a country of 11 million beggars. What he meant was that within 10 years, Kenya’s population had grown from 6 to 11 million the majority of them living in squalor as a few rich people swam in wealth. JM’s crusade caused him his life in March 1975 exactly 6 years after Mboya’s assassination.

By the time Jomo Kenyatta was dying in August 1978, the country was choking under the yoke of his dictatorship. The press, parliament and the civil society had lost their voices. The only broadcast station, VOK was all praises for Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. News about him opened and closed all prime time bulletins.

Unfortunately when Daniel Moi took over, all he could tell the nation was that he would follow in Mzee’s footsteps. Those footsteps were to be our miserable lives for 24 years. The man was three times worse than Kenyatta. He ran down every economic and social gain under Kenyatta. He detained and killed more people through security agents than Kenyatta. For this despotism, he survived one coupe attempt in August 1982 when for 12 hours, the Air Force was in control of the country.

With official brutality, corruption and destruction of national institutions becoming the order of the day, more resistance to this regime popped up from time to time. We had the Mwakenya underground movement, the George Anyona, Orengo, Raila, Mukaru Nganga group. We had voices of resistance coming from university dons that resulted either detentions or fleeing into exile.

Therefore by the time Rev Njoya was calling for a new constitution in 1984 and thereafter joined by Bishop Henry Okullu, Alexander Muge and Dr. Gitari, the struggle had started much earlier.

By the time Matiba and Rubia were joining the struggle 20 years ago, the real struggle for change had been on the table for a quarter century.


Caleb Oira said...
August 23, 2018 at 3:04 PM  

Excellent write up.
Can't agree better.
The second liberation began with