Author Archive

The Spirit of Global Citizen Festival, New York, September 26, 2015: The Challenge for Kenyans   Leave a comment

In a spectacular rendition of the public announcement of the renewed commitment to end extreme global poverty, the United Nations sponsored an event that has left many of us breathless. The renewed commitment is spelled out in terms of the 17 goals that set new benchmarks in the fight against extreme global poverty. This represents a sequel to the 8 goals articulated in the Millennium Development Goals, 2000.

{The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. All 189 United Nations member states at the time (there are 193 currently), and at least 23 international organizations, committed to help achieve the following Millennium Development Goals by 2015:
1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. To achieve universal primary education
3. To promote gender equality
4. To reduce child mortality
5. To improve maternal health
6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7. To ensure environmental sustainability[1]
8. To develop a global partnership for development}

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
{On 25 September 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Development Agenda titled Transforming our world’ ‘
This included the following goals:
1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development}

We should use these benchmarks to gauge the extent to which our individual actions as well as those of our national and local governments contribute towards the realization of the lofty goals of SDGs.
Prof. Ronald S. Edari, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA


Posted September 28, 2015 by edari1 in Political Issues

Remembering Prof. Ali Mazrui   Leave a comment

In a private message someone once asked me whether I knew Prof. Ali Mazrui, and I responded by saying: yes, he was my elder brother. The person actually believed me, but I corrected him by narrating the following brief story.

In the 1960s, some of us undergraduate political hot heads in Canadian universities were quite exasperated when we read “controversial” articles in the magazine “Transition” published in Uganda under the editorship of none other than Prof. Mazrui. Two articles authored by Prof. Mazrui: “Kwame Nkrumah: The Leninist Czar” and “Tanzaphilia”, touched off a storm of controversy among African intellectuals across the globe.

During this period, I was deeply involved in both student politics at the University of Waterloo, and the left student movements of the 1960s. I graduated from Waterloo in 1966 and proceeded to Northwestern University to pursue graduate studies. It was at Northwestern University in 1968 where I met Prof. Mazrui personally in a world conference on “violence” as a means of effecting change in society. Prof. Mazrui was one of the scholars who delivered major papers that set the stage for discussions. I played a small role as a student discussant for a paper which I cannot even remember now. At the time, I was preparing to travel to Kenya to conduct my PhD thesis research on “Ethnic Relations and National Integration”.

After graduating from Northwestern University in 1971, I became an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, in 1972. During my promotion from “assistant” to “associate” professor in 1978, Prof. Mazrui, who was a Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, wrote a powerful letter of endorsement for my “promotion with tenure”. These letters of support carry a heavy weight in the deliberations of the “Executive Committees” of each department in the United States academic system. In effect, your intellectual peers stake out their academic reputations and accomplishments in extending letters of support to you.

My next encounter with Prof. Mazrui was in 1979 in the “Fifth Congress of Pan African Studies” in the then Zaire. Prof. Mazrui was one of the “special rapporteurs” of the conference proceedings that were published in Paris, France. My contribution was the following paper: “Dependent Development and Urbanization in Kenya.” In V.Y. Mudimbe, ed. Africa’s Dependence and the Remedies. Paris, France: Berger-Levrault, 1980. Pp. 168-183.

In the 1980s, Prof. Mazrui was invited from time to time at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, to give special lectures on development and African politics. During these occasions, I engaged in private discussions with Prof. Mazrui on a variety of topics ranging from his own work to his personal experiences with African leaders and scholars. This is when I came to appreciate even more the depth of Prof. Mazrui’s intimate knowledge of African politics and his analytical savvy in laying bare the logic at work in the thinking of African leaders. Beyond this, we shared some lighter moments of jokes about “Pwani” (Kenya Coast), and our own unique roots in Muslim culture and the Coast.

We all miss you Professor Mazrui, and we shall try even harder to follow your giant footsteps in the march towards the dawn of a new day in Africa.

Mwalimu Edari

Posted September 5, 2015 by edari1 in Land Tenure Issues

Devolution as an Antidote for Tribalism?   Leave a comment

Every tribal grouping has a right of self-determination, advocating for their own socioeconomic development and protection of their natural resources and cultural heritage. That is the gospel that under girds many of the fundamental laws enshrined in the new Kenya constitution. A devolved system of power at the county level, has in effect formalized what amounts to “tribal areas” that are constituted as political entities. In such a universe, political players compete with their own tribesmen and therefore the question of “tribalism” does not arise.

Now Here Comes the “Glitch”
Not all of our tribal areas are blessed with favorable natural endowment. Arid and semi-arid areas like Ukambani and North Eastern region, are places where people constantly struggle against the tyranny of mother nature. Without an infusion of revenues and other resources from the central government, such places would be condemned to a chronic state of privation and underdevelopment.

Given the heavily tribalized politics of Kenya, would the central government disburse funds for development out of noble and lofty principles? Certainly not. The neglect of these areas and the marginalization of such areas as the Coast has been the order of the day since Kenya became independent. Without an aggressive counter-hegemonic tribal political mobilization and agitation, no resources have been forthcoming under the stewardship of the tribal moguls such as Mzee Kenyatta, Moi, Kibaki and UhuRuto .

It is in the national political contestations that we find the loudest noises regarding “tribalism”. That is understandable since we are talking of the control of the enormous resources of the central government and the power to decide who gets what. No political leader in Kenya can assume the leadership of the central government without the solid backing of their tribal base and the capacity to make deals with other major tribal political players. It is equally true that an effective opposition to a ruling tribal oligarchy can only be mounted by marshalling the solid support of the tribal groupings that are not in power.

When Will All This End?
Tribal politics will begin to recede when socioeconomic development brings about new forms social differentiation and class formation. The latter is simply a reflection of the capitalist path to development that Kenya embarked on since the country became independent.

Bless you all
Mwalimu Edari

Posted September 3, 2015 by edari1 in Land Tenure Issues

Devolution of Power or Devolution of Corruption ?   Leave a comment

Among the major reasons why Kenyans were clamoring for “dcvolution” was the prospect of taming corruption at the very top of government—the national government and wayward presidents and their handlers, cronies and sycophants. Corruption has been a particularly corrosive disease because of both the scale of resources and funds involved and the impact this cancer has had on the entire nation. Then came devolution that was supposed to curb abuses of power and redistribute power and resources widely so that local areas throughout Kenya can have greater access to leaders and resources. So what happened?

The emergence of local “nyang’aus” who have gone on a rampage plundering and pillaging county government coffers in various ways including:
1. unsustainable increments in salaries and allowances
2. sending large caravans of political tourists to foreign lands such as UK, France, China, Israel, etc, ostensibly to lure foreign investments as well as showcase their counties—quite a laughable spectacle to the leadership of the places they visit.
3. rampant corruption that has simply devastated local areas from Mombasa to Kisumu

I am sure most of you can think of more “sins” that have been committed by these local “nyang’aus” (aka County officials and elected leaders). The moral here is that you cannot tame corruption by a simple act of devolution. What the latter succeeds in doing is to break up a large polluted lake into smaller polluted ponds. The voracious parasites that reside and rule such putrid waters can be found in both, large and small bodies of waters.

However, the local areas constituted as counties and municipalities are much more accessible to local Kenyans and the task of going after the local “nyang’aus” is much easier than that of going after the “heavy hitters” (presidents, etc), who operate at the national level. It is up to Kenyans to mount multifaceted campaigns of redeeming their counties and country from leaders who have continued tp sabotage their quest for a better life.
These remarks can also be read from:

Bless you all
Prof. Edari

Posted August 11, 2015 by edari1 in Land Tenure Issues

County Grassroots Mobilization for Political and Economic Development   Leave a comment

At the time of Kenya’s independence, a chorus of leaders with Mzee Kenyatta in the driver’s seat rallied around the chant of “Harambee”. This philosophy of pulling ourselves up collectively has been followed by many ordinary wananchi who have gone about the business of educating their children, conducting local “harambee” initiatives, pursuing all sorts of businesses, etc. If anything has contributed to emergence of Kenya as a leading economy in East Africa, it is the activities of these brave Kenyans. It therefore comes to me as a surprise when I see so many Kenyans still looking for “salvation” from our elected officials at the local and national levels. As far as I am concerned, elected officials are mostly an insidious form of cancer that is a serious obstacle to political and economic development. Plundering public coffers, corruption, sycophancy, political violence and murders, are just some of their numerous “sins” against Kenyans and God!

In every local and national election cycle, Kenya is gripped with the fever of political campaigns and the rampage of politicians. But when the dust settles, it is business as usual: “eating”, corrupt deals, wheeling and dealing, etc. In other words, elected leaders engaging in self-serving activities that do very little for wananchi throughout Kenya.

Fortunately many wananchi have not waited for manor to fall from the heavens, They have seized the initiatives of advancing their own lot and that of their families and communities. But wananchi can do more and I would suggest the following:

  1. Develop a system of report cards for rating elected officials
  2. Put elected officials to task and let them explain in public meetings what they have done for their constituencies
  3. Look deeply into their respective cultures to identify institutions that can be used for mobilizing resources in cash or kind for deployment in advancing development. Among the Akamba people there is still the institution of “mwethya”–a system of reciprocal collective labor that my own mother Syovata wa Kimanzi used for cultivating huge tracts of land around Ikutha in Southern Kitui. When I was preparing to go to the University of Waterloo, none other than the late Chief Kitonga, Nzamba Kitonga’s father organized a fund raising initiative under the auspices of “Akamba King’ole”. That initiative yielded monies with which I was able to buy a suit and tie, suitcase, etc. in order to travel to Canada. My family had very little resources then. These types of events in my past are what have shaped my character as an “eager beaver” who is always trying to help others.
  4. Mobilize political campaigns and agitation for infrastructure investment—roads, water, rural electrification, health clinics, schools and teachers, etc. Infrastructure investment constitutes what economists refer to as “public goods”. These types of investment not only create an “enabling environment” for development, but they also have a broader impact on a much wider segment of Kenyans–locally and as well as nationally.

More Later

Prof. Edari

Posted August 6, 2015 by edari1 in Land Tenure Issues

Mutahi Ngunyi, the Tyranny of Numbers and the Central Province Stranglehold on Power in Kenya   Leave a comment

Ngunyi has been under some heavy attacks on his prediction of a Jubilee win in the upcoming Kenya elections, 2013, but his prediction should not come as a surprise! Kenya politics are still very heavily “tribalized” as every Kenyan knows. Given the numerical breakdown of the Kenya demographics, that tends to give the larger tribes an edge in the resulting game of assuming a dominant position and making deals with other larger tribes. But beyond this simple political algorithm, there is an insidious process of “modernizing” tribalism that has been operative since Kenya attained its independence, and it all started with Mzee Kenyatta.

Younger Kenyans may know this but Mzee Kenyatta was a trained cultural anthropologist who studied under the world renowned anthropologist, Professor BronisÅ‚aw Malinowski at the London School of Economics. It was this background that furnished Mzee with the wherewithal to write his “magna opus” Facing Mount Kenya.

When Kenya got her independence with Kenyatta as the first president, very soon the politics of the country became polarized between the “left” represented by Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and the “right” represented by Mzee Kenyatta. While Oginga advocated policies that were consonant with a socialist path to development, Kenyatta wanted to implement policies that paved way for the institution of private property–private land ownership, private investment, etc. The critical question then was how to marshal the political power needed to implement policies that emanated from the two diametrically opposed ideological predilections?

Kenyatta mounted an aggressive attack on Raila using not only Raila’s own prominent Luos in his cabinet, notably Tom Mboya, but set on a path of “tribalizing” Kenyan politics using his own understanding of the “tribal” mind of Kenyans. Henceforth we were treated to politics of “kihii” referring to the Luos and “house of Mumbi”, referring to the mythical progenitor of Agikuyu clans. Many ordinary Agikuyus started flocking to Gatundu to pledge allegiance to the oath that had it that the “flag of Kenya will never leave the house of mumbi”! Later, an all-encompassing hegemonic myth of GEMA was concocted as part of a “ruling myth”. This has survived to the present.

Kikuyu domination was not simply left to chance. Rather, it was buttressed by the control of key financial institutions, public service appointments, the army, the police, the CID, and the intelligence. In many instances, such control was effected through “clientele” politics of recruiting sycophants from other tribes who were expected to sing the same tune. This was supposed to be the role of Moi, until he got other ideas of his own!

What flowed from all this was tremendous prosperity for the Agikuyu in the private as well as the public sectors. Agikuyu elites who multiplied in numbers, formed a business and political class that were heavily invested in the creation and recreation of their own “superiority” as a “dominant tribe”. Thus achievements in education and business simply reinforced myths of tribal superiority. This is a far cry from the plight of the vast numbers of Agikuyus who have either very low incomes or are poor! By way of analogy, the plight of these Agikuyus can be compared with the plight of the “poor white trash” in the United States. While many of these may entertain the illusions of “white superiority”, they have very little to show for their racist beliefs!

By contrast to the tribalism of other groups in Kenya, Kikuyu tribalism is not only nurtured by the “modernized” versions of primordial beliefs, but is also reinforced by the selective interweaving of socioeconomic success stories into a grand narrative of “tribal superiority”. It is for this reason that we find a much greater degree of tribal unity and loyalty among the Agikuyu, compared with what obtains for other tribal groupings in Kenya.

In the arena of politics, the Agikuyu have created a very effective political machine that will require radical political strategies to dismantle. While Agikuyu are only 17 percent of the Kenya population (2009 demographic data), the fact that they have more resources and tend to act in accordance with the dictates of a monolithic tribal formation (regardless of party labels), all they have to do is to make a deal with elites of one large tribe in order to create a formidable voting block. We can therefore understand the plausibility of what Mutahi Ngunyi is saying regarding the prospects of a Jubilee alliance win.

I see also our learned colleague Mutahi Ngunyi has the same dismissive attitude towards the on-going presidential debates as I have had. However, after viewing our first presidential debates, I have changed my mind. What matters for now is the creation and institutionalization of a political process that will survive long after our “tribalized” politics have receded with the dawn of new day of “de-tribalized” politics in Kenya.

Mutahi Ngunyi also made another point that many may have missed. Candidates are running all over the country making flamboyant speeches and literally dancing around with no idea of how many of those who are attending political rallies actually registered to vote? I submit that many of the candidates are going to be in for very rude awakening when the final vote counts are announced!

Posted in: Kenya Development Forum & Kenya Coast Development Forum

Mwalimu Edari

Posted February 20, 2013 by edari1 in Political Issues

The First Kenya Presidential Debate, 2013   Leave a comment

Despite my initial skepticism, the Kenya Presidential Debate held today, February 11, 2013, was a resounding success on the whole. All the candidates, except for the glaring pronouncements of Musalia Mudavadi, should make all of us feel proud as Kenyans.

I would like to single out Mwalimu Dida, in particular, who provided both, the aspirants and the audience with lighter moments that added color to the occasion. At this juncture I would like to turn to the matter of Musalia Mudavadi, who should be a cause for concern for all Kenyans, but particularly for the people in his neck of the woods!

Musalia Mudavadi as an Apostle of Privatization and Neoliberalism
In one or two questions, Mudavadi took an ideological position that he would:
1. privatize the Port of Mombasa
2. privatize the Kenya Airways
3. apply the market principle predicated on the “ability to pay” in the provision of health care; naturally he had nothing to say when Julie Gichuru asked him about the health cartel that was stifling the health reforms that would expand medical services to the poor and low-income Kenyans! Simply incredible!

The forces that are supporting privatization of our ports and airways are the elites and tycoons who care very little for the average wananchi, except lining their pockets by ever looking for avenues for profitable investments. A good many of these elites and tycoons acquired their wealth through plundering of government coffers, land grabbing, corruption and other under-handed political and economic practices. What many of these characters are trying to do now is to protect and continue to expand their wealth as usual: by CAPTURING STATE POWER! Will this work this time around? That will depend on the wananchi.

But just about every Kenyans does not want the likes of Mudavadi and his ilk. If Mudavadi were to get his wish of implementing his “neoliberal” policies and the gospel according to the precepts of unbridled free market system, Kenyans would be reduced to abject poverty like we have never seen before. Mudavadi’s “safe hands” would turn out to be the clutches of the devil himself! All you have to do to gauge the efficacy of these policies is by looking at the USA and the global economy.

The American society has declined on many fronts on account of economic liberalization policies of the Republicans. Greece, Spain and other European countries are engulfed in deep economic crises that threaten the very viability of these countries as “sovereign state systems”. Time and again, they keep on borrowing money to salvage their economies, only to fall flat on their faces! Is this what we want for Kenya? Certainly not. So Mudavadi, just crawl back into the den of “neoliberal” iniquity that you reared your ugly head from!

Mwalimu Edari

Posted February 11, 2013 by edari1 in Land Tenure Issues