Archive for the ‘Land Tenure Issues’ Category

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

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

A Critique of The National Cohesion and Integration Commission: Stereotypes and Political Violence   Leave a comment

A stereotype is a generalized label that is used to characterize members of a given group. Since it is used from a vantage of a person’s membership in another group, it is not only used to establish the social distance between “we” and “they”, but is often laden with negative affect or emotions that predispose a person to discriminatory actions.

Stereotypes as prejudgments of others on the basis of their group membership, are rarely positive. This is why I find the reference to “positive stereotypes” by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission to be quite curious to say the least. Thus in her recent interview with KTN, the Vice Chairperson of the Commission, Milly Lwanga Odongo, asserted that a stereotype of a particular ethnic as being “hard-working” is an example of a positive stereotype. Now, here is the problem, if you claim that this group is “hard-working”, you are making an implicit assumption that another group is not “hard-working”!

That simply adds fuel to a burning problem, particularly in the context of ethnic relations in Kenya. For many Kenyans this is a familiar theme that goes back to the days of Kenyatta with his characterization of the Coast people as being lazy, in contradistinction to the “hard-working” people of the Central Province.

I am telling you the more things change, the more they remain the same! But more poignantly is how in the world can such a body as the National Cohesion and Integration Commission identify the political culprits who use ethnic “stereotypes” as “code words” for instigating violence? This is silly to say the least!

What is even more preposterous is to lay a bold claim in the recently released report posted in their website that they collected “scientific” data that came up with volatile “code words”. This study is based on focus groups of thirty persons from some 38 counties. How the members of each of these groups were selected should not be dignified with the term “scientific”. At any rate, all this is making much ado about nothing regarding what may precipitate yet another cycle of violence in Kenya.

It is common knowledge that the political landscape of Kenya has been polarized between two major groups: the Luo and the Kikuyu. Party “formations” have tended to reproduce the same polarized politics since 1963. In the fall of 2012, long before the different political groupings began their latest round of political realignment, I stated in my blog–Kenya Development Forum, that the leading viable candidates in the March 4, 2013 presidential election will be Raila and Uhuru. The emergence of CORD and the Jubilee Alliance have confirmed what many of us had anticipated. If any hell breaks out in the upcoming elections, it will be out of the dynamic interplay in the political contestations of these giant formations, not stereotypes. It is silly to attribute political upheavals to the process of mutual stereotyping. The 2007/2008 political upheavals arose out of the widespread belief that Kibaki had stolen the election!

Notwithstanding the above talk of political polarization, there have been some significant shifts in the political realignment that may yet introduce some fundamental changes in our politics and government. That is all the more important if we do not shy away from such critical issues such as land reform, socioeconomic inequality, corruption, regional disparities in development, affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, urban poverty, and the like. These are issues that if avoided will render our politics devoid of any substance and thus magnify symbolic posturing that is prone to stereotyping processes.

Mwalimu Edari

Posted February 8, 2013 by edari1 in Land Tenure Issues

Kenya Elections 2013: The Issue of Land and the Political Economy Under Girding Public Issues   Leave a comment

There is an emerging chorus of public figures who have come out warning politicians against raising the issue of land and “historical injustices”, etc. What is at issue is supposedly so “divisive” and volatile that it can throw Kenya into yet another cycle of violence at this critical juncture of seeking reconciliation and conducting peaceful elections.

Wananchi should not only be wary of such “slick” prophets of doom, but should denounce them in no uncertain terms. The reason is simple: if you put land grabbers and thieves in charge of running the country once again, they will not only take measures to protect their interests once they are in power, but will resist any policies that are aimed at initiating the process of fundamental land reforms. This is what is at stake in this election.

The public should tell the Inspector General of police David Kimaiyo to steer away from uttering “edicts” that warn politicians from raising the land issue in their campaigns. Kenya is moving away from the days of autocratic presidents and the police henchmen who have been the enforcers of their repressive measures. In fact the Inspector General should realize that he is under the same regime of the “rule of law” that governs all Kenyans under our new constitution. And as such, his performance in office will also be subjected to a judicial review to ensure that his actions do not “over-reach” his authority.

There is another “Mr. Slick” Mzalendo Kibunjia, who has come out also to warn politicians against raising the land issue. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission is a useless organization that serves the interests of its officers and has achieved very little of consequence. Their favorite past time is to run around the country conducting “hearings” with a view to reconciling differences among the members of the different communities. They also try to deepen their legitimacy by “glob trotting” in search of a wider exposure in the international community and Kenyans in Diaspora.

This organization has blown a good opportunity of reconciling Kenyans by putting as its center piece the volatile land question and land grabbing throughout Kenya. Their philosophy should be driven by the material conditions under which we as Kenyans live, not simply focusing on our ethnic stereotypes and other cognitive images that are lodged in the heads of members of the different tribes!

Glaring regional disparities in education and resource distribution should be the starting point in seeking reconciliation, not running around asking members of the different communities what they think about each other!

The moral here is simple: groups such as the National Cohesion and Integration Commission that are trying to supply a glue that can hold a nation together should ground their approaches on a sound political economy of development and underdevelopment. The land question, anti-poverty strategy, uneven development, plundering of the government coffers, corruption, and affirmative action in the distribution of key positions in the government and other institutions should the major parameters that define the missions of such organizations. For now, let us raise questions regarding what our politicians are all about. We do not need the intervention of those who are usurping the role of being intermediaries—be they the police or self-righteous civic organizations. These days I am extremely suspicious of civic organizations that claim to be involve in political civic education. The only thing that the public does not know about those who are seeking to govern us is their secret bank accounts, wealth, land ownership and the many shady deals that they have been involved in over the years.

Mwalimu Edari

Posted February 6, 2013 by edari1 in Land Tenure Issues