Friday, August 24, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
August 22, 2012

The gods must be angry with the African continent this month.
There has been too much death and sorrow all round. From South Africa to Ghana and back in Ethiopia and Kenya; it has been one death after another.

Kenyans will tell you that August is usually their month of sorrow dating back to August 22 1978 when their founding president Jomo Kenyatta passed on.

Four years later, the country went through a major trauma when its Air Force tried to overthrow the four year reign of President Daniel arap Moi. In the ensuing power struggle, hundreds of soldiers and civilians lost their lives with scores of business premises looted.

In August 1990 Kenya, lost Bishop Alexander Muge of the Anglican Church, one of President Moi’s fiercest critics for his policies on one party state. Many people believed that Muge was killed by state agents especially after one of Moi’s cabinet ministers had warned him that if he travelled to Busia town that day, he would not come back alive. He died in a road crash on his way back.

Two years later in August 1992, Kenya lost one of the founding fathers, Masinde Muliro who was travelling from London at the time. At the time of his death, he had teamed up with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga to form a new political party following the return to multiparty politics.

Six years later, again in August 1998, terrorists hit the American Embassy in the center of Nairobi killing close to three hundred people and maiming hundreds more.
Five years later in August 2003, Masinde Muliro’s political apprentice, Kijana Wamalwa, then Kenya’s Vice President died in a London hospital after a long illness.

Kenyans were therefore not surprised when they learnt that on the 34th Anniversary of Jomo Kenyatta’s death, one of its founding fathers, Martin Joseph Shikuku passed on in Nairobi on the same day Kenyatta died. However, this August month has been more vicious than the previous ones not only for Kenya but many parts of Africa.

This is the month we lost about eight Ugandan soldiers who died in multiple air disasters in Mt. Kenya area. However, before the dust settled on the Ugandan tragedy, another four deaths occurred in the Masai Mara again due an air crash.

Far away in South Africa, the killing of 39 striking miners must have shocked the world in the scale of the Sharpaville massacres of the 1960s and killing of school children in Soweto in 1976. The paradox this time had to do with the police killings taking place under the command of a Black President and a Black police Chief. What the South Africans must be asking is this: Is there any difference between an apartheid regime and a Black regime when it comes to protecting capitalist exploitation of the workers- the workers in this case being all Black and mine owners being White supremacists?

South Africa aside, Africa is again plunged in grief mourning another statesman so soon after burying President John Atta Mills of Ghana who was buried early this month.

The death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has not come as a surprise to many that were in the picture about his health. It was rumored that he was ailing in a hospital in Brussels soon after he skipped the African Heads of State summit in Addis Ababa last month.

For those who knew Meles even from a distance, one could not resist acknowledging that the man was a real benevolent dictator. He came to power after fighting a repressive regime and seemed to have had one mission; to move Ethiopia from medieval ages into a modern state. And his efforts could be sported everywhere in Addis Ababa. He expanded the roads, revamped infrastructure, built a new and modern airport and put up numerous world class buildings to accommodate a thriving economy. During his era, he got rid of beggars that used to line up the streets of Addis Ababa.

But like all great and progressive leaders. He had his own enemies and friends. Whereas his admirers loved him to death, his sworn enemies, the corrupt lot he had dethroned condemned him to eternity. And he had enemies around.

A number were fellow Ethiopians in exile while others were the Somali terrorists in Somalia. Little wonder that when the news of his death hit the headlines, many Al Shabaab terrorists celebrated the same way they did when Kenya lost its Internal Security Minister in an air crash two months earlier.

I remember way back in 2007 when I toured Addis Ababa and wrote an article praising Meles Zenawi for lifting Ethiopia from a rat hole. Many Meles opponents in the Diaspora sent me hate mails with some accusing me of having been bribed to play PR to a dictator- the man who didn’t even know I existed.

As we in Kenya mourn the deaths of veteran Martin Shikuku and 60 others killed in senseless conflicts in Northern Kenya; let our hearts go out to the 39 bereaved families of the miners that lost their lives at the hands of trigger happy police officers in South Africa.
Yes, let our hearts go out to the people of Ethiopia as they prepare to say farewell to their fallen leader. This August has been too much for Africa