By Ochieng’ Maddo
Yes, Britain colonized Kenya for years. The colonialists took our land, forced us to toil on it while paying us poorly, and still, taxed that pittance heavily. They oppressed freedom movements, tortured and killed dozens of Maumau and other Kenyans, and detained Jomo Kenyatta, the current president’s father. But these atrocities were not limited to Mount Kenya only. Even at Kapenguria prison there were five other inmates, not Kenyatta alone.
But of late President Uhuru Kenyatta has become sentimental about British colonialism which ended fifty years ago. When he previously served in the government in different positions, he never portrayed such emotions. It is clear that his strong feelings have been triggered by his impending trial at The Hague. He is lying that it is the West that is keen to prosecute him. Let me set the record straight. The Rome Statute was a UN creation. Member states signed it out of their own volition. In fact, out of the 122 ICC member states, Africa is leading with 34 counties of her 52. Asia and Pacific States have 18, Eastern European States 18, Latin America and Caribbean states 27, and Western European states 25. Senegal and Ghana were the first African states to join it in 1999. Kenya became a signatory on March 15 2005 and Côte d’Ivoire, whose own Laurent Gbagbo is also indicted, was the last join ICC on 15 February 2013. USA is not even ICC member.
Therefore, Uhurus’ claims about the West interested in taking him to the ICC are false and do not augur well for the well-being of the nation. He was indicted by the International Criminal Court, which Kenya is a member, before he became president hence his case should solely be his personal problem. Furthermore, he is himself still benefiting greatly from British colonialism than any other Kenyan alive today.
To begin with, in 1935, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was in the West, studying social anthropology at the London School of Economics. He was an active member of the International African Service Bureau, a pan-Africanist and anti-colonial organization, before later returning home to join Maumau, which culminated into his seven years detention. It was his British education, international exposure and organizational skills acquired in London that gave him advantage over other local veteran Maumau leaders, who even deserved the presidency more than him.
Jomo Kenyatta left prison to become an autocratic president whose death was even treasonable to imagine. He used his position to acquire huge chunks of land in most parts of the country, some of which Uhuru Kenyatta has inherited. Coming from Kenya’s aristocracy, Uhuru was chauffeur-driven to the prestigious St. Mary’s school Nairobi, after which he went West to study political science at Amherst College in the United States. Upon returning to Kenya, he started Wilham Kenya Limited, a company through which he sourced and exported agricultural produce, again, mainly to the West.
The Kenyatta family name just like Jaramogi Odinga’s in Nyanza, has reigned supreme in Kenyan politics for decades. In Central Kenya it is almost a political religion, going by the fanatical support he wields there. Many political analysts have argued that if Uhuru was to be stripped of the name Kenyatta; he would struggle to win even a parliamentary seat. In fact, it was his weak personality and political inexperience that made him lose Gatundu parliamentary seat in his home area, to the little known Moses Muihia in 1997. Basking in the glory of Kenyatta family relation, politicians Ngengi Muigai and Beth Mugo have won several elective (and nominative in the case of Mugo) positions in Kenya.
Uhuru Kenyatta is also enjoying his father’s massive wealth. Recently, Forbes Magazine placed him among Africa’s 40 Richest. According to Forbes, Uhuru owns at least 500,000 acres of prime land spread across the country, elaborating that: ‘the land was acquired by his father in the 1960s and 1970s when the British colonial government and the World Bank funded a settlement transfer fund scheme that enabled government officials and wealthy Kenyans to acquire land from the British at very low prices.’ The Kenyattas also have diverse business interests cutting across the board. This shows how Kenyatta family and others took advantage of the British government’s funds to deprive other Kenyans who could not meet the cost of land.
From a national and even international approach, Kenya still benefits more from the West than East. There are more and more Kenyans trooping to the West in search of education, jobs and better life. They are keen on strengthening and stabilising diplomatic ties between Kenya and the West. In August this year for instance, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi opened Britain’s first Kenya Coffee House in Romford, Essex, East London. The business is owned by UK-based Kenyans Joash Robinson and Susan Gakungu. This demonstrates how Kenyans are willing to invest wherever there is opportunity, and it does not matter to them whether Uhuru Kenyatta personally has an attitude towards the West or not.
Kenyans’ desire to flee their country to the West is manifest from the winding queues and crowds trooping into and out of the US, UK, Canada and Australia consular every day. Local statistics indicate that people from Central Kenya form almost half of this population. There are conflicting figures of Kenyans living abroad as most of them lack valid status. In the UK, it is difficult to classify genuine Kenyans because of the large number of Somalis and Asians of Kenyan origin. Still, many Kenyans in the UK and elsewhere changed their nationality to war-torn countries such as Rwanda, Burundi and DRC to acquire asylum status. Kenya’s former US ambassador, Elkanah Odembo, admitted early this year that over 400,000 Kenyans in the US do not have valid visas, even though demographer Jeffrey Passel put the number at just 30,000. But the numerical disparity points at the fact that Kenyans are trying hard to remain in the West, contrary to Uhuru’s thinking.
Furthermore, the ‘digital economy’ that Jubilee government promised to initiate depends also on Diaspora remittance. Central Bank of Kenya keeps up-to-date statistics on monthly remittance, which the government uses to gauge economic strength. Its data shows that in the 12 months to August 2013, average Diaspora remittance inflows increased by 10.4 percent to USD 102.6 million from USD 93 million in the year to August 2012, which was viewed as positive indicator in the economic sector.
Kenya still gets more tourists from Europe and America than elsewhere, and the local investors in creative, transport and hospitality industries react with anger every time the president takes to the podium to lecture the west on our sovereignty, which of course, they know. Having benefited from the West in this way, Uhuru Kenyatta should not to deny the rest of Kenyans a chance to also develop their lives, families and the future of their children in the same way Mzee Jomo Kenyatta did. His constant unwarranted attacks on our development partners will strain our cordial relation. Don’t we also want to educate our children in America the way Mzee Kenyatta did to his son?
- 50 years ago it was Jomo, now his son Uhuru (capitalfm.co.ke)
- Kenya and the ICC: No Justice for Victims (johanneslanger.com)
- Kenya at 50: Unfulfilled promises, ethnic division but hope for a bright future (johanneslanger.com)