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Will Trump Rig the 2020 Election?

12 min read.

Voter suppression, a biased Supreme Court and foreign interference could help Trump win the 2020 election. However, a groundswell of anger among American youth might just tip the scales towards Biden. But with Trump having been infected with the coronavirus, it is hard to tell what November 3rd will bring.

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Will Trump Rig the 2020 Election?
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If you cannot reason beyond petty sentiments, then you are a liability to mankind.
– Dr. Chuba Okadigbo

Wisconsin, the critical swing state that I’m from and currently live in, made resounding headlines worldwide on April 7th when the Republican legislature, in a Machiavellian maneuvre, insisted that the primary election be held in person without postponement, while also shifting the goal posts for absentee, mail-in voting and cutting the number of polling stations in the largely black, strongly democratic city of Milwaukee from 176 down to 5.

All this was to ensure that the down ballot vote for Jill Karofsky, a liberal upstart circuit judge, was soundly defeated by Republican incumbent Dan Kelly. Kelly, a staunch right-wing activist judge, was personally touted by Trump, who repeatedly pushed for him on social media.

The citizens of Wisconsin essentially acted in civic revolt, and smashed Dan Kelly out of office, despite the goal posts practically being burned down.

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, on April 6th, 2020, the typically conservative-leaning city on the banks of Lake Michigan flipped markedly Democratic in the controversy-laden special election for a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat. Months later – in August of 2020 – Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back during a questionable altercation with the police, which permanently paralysed him. The video of the shooting touched off days of protests, unrest and violence. All of this weirdness and political sniping begs the question: Why would Trump bother with anything like this at all? Who cares? Well, if Kenosha, a small Middle America city, is an example, all this craziness looks like it might just encourage people to get out and vote. It certainly looked like that back in April, and things haven’t exactly improved in America since that time.

When the masses vote in the US, they tend to lean liberal. So the answer from the conservative side is simple: do everything in your political power to ensure it is much more difficult to vote.

The Wisconsin election for the Supreme Court seat in April of 2020 tipped the Republican hand; the 2020 presidential election will be an attempt to “legally” and illegally rig the vote to skew towards the incumbent, allowing Donald Trump and his ilk to cling to power. The key word here is cling. One must cling if one is the ruling minority that holds a disproportionate amount of power within a country.

Looking into the news, one would almost think that the United States is a fundamentally conservative and Republican country. But this isn’t true; it simply has some built-in systemic flaws tailored for exploitation. Most people know about the electoral college affording more importance to some states than others during elections, but there are other methods, including gerrymandering of districts to stack the government, packing the courts with interchangeable ultra-conservatives from an institute called the Federalist Society, and all states having two senators (despite some states having considerably larger populations than others) help the conservative cause further.

The Wisconsin election for the Supreme Court seat in April of 2020 tipped the Republican hand; the 2020 presidential election will be an attempt to “legally” and illegally rig the vote to skew towards the incumbent, allowing Donald Trump and his ilk to cling to power.

The Republicans are simply better at politics; they refuse to compromise, even when in the minority. The party plays the game with a win-at-all-costs mindset. A case in point is when the liberal Supreme Court Justice Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of cancer on September 18th. The Republican leadership was quick to announce they’d rush to replace her ahead of the upcoming election, despite a pandemic and an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions. This would not be so bad if Senate leader Mitch McConnell had not blocked President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, because it was the election year of 2016 and “the people should decide”.

A party that cares so little about what people say about it has an inherent advantage built in over the liberal wing, who have famously offered to continually compromise for “the good of the nation” Such offers of olive branches rarely benefit the people in any real way.

In this election year, however, this clear-cut Machiavellian tendency to bend or even break the rules can further muddy the waters. Take the crucial swing state of Wisconsin as an example. That same controversial judicial election in April of 2020 was made controversial by a state legislature that openly tried to rig the deck in every way they could think of doing so. They made the standards to vote by mail far more stringent, while simultaneously shrinking the time window in which voters could complete their ballots.

In the April judicial election, they played a hand in ensuring that the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee County (the state’s biggest and most diverse city) was cut down to a measly five polling stations. All of this during a pandemic of historic proportions. Just because the Democratic candidate won in a landslide doesn’t mean that the attempt to suppress the vote wasn’t there. These efforts are sure to rear their ugly head ahead of the upcoming general election on November 3rd, and in some respects already are.

The state legislature of Wisconsin has become so blatant that Harvard’s Electoral Integrity Project, which analyses the health of election bodies around the world, rated the state’s electoral boundaries as a three on a scale of one to 100, akin to an authoritarian regime.They have within the last several years introduced some of the most stringent voting ID laws in the US, changed the parameters for absentee ballots, made it necessary to have an adult witness for someone fulfilling an absentee ballot, targeted black and Latino districts for suppression efforts, and systemically purged the voting rolls. (The last time they did this with particular gusto was in 2020.)

Now election officials in the state are weary of weariness. Voters who think that they have jumped through all of these hurdles may find themselves turning up at the polls only to not have jumped through a hoop that was only recently introduced and not publicly announced.

Strange regulations and laws

There are dozens of strange regulations and laws, perhaps hundreds, across the US, often in Republican-held states (such as Florida, whose former governor-turned- senator proposed on September 24th that all votes not counted within a 24-hour period should be thrown into the trash), which only serve to frustrate an already frustrated population.

This becomes a problem if Trump declares national emergencies in several cities in key swing states, limiting the number of hours voters will be able to vote in person. Or if, on election day, on orders from the White House, unofficial “poll watchers” show up in several districts at multiple polling places. Officials on the ground could report widespread voter intimidation, especially within black and Latino neighbourhoods.

Or there could be delays in absentee ballot counting. Despite an untold number of votes going uncounted, Trump could declare a narrow victory and the Biden camp could dispute this claim. The state legislature could intervene as “electors” due to the disputed nature of the election and ongoing public health emergency due to COVID- 19. The Democratic governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, could declare the election for Biden. Both results could be brought before Congressional committees in Washington, which could leave it up to the courts to decide. The proceedings could rapidly go up the court chain of command, all the way to the US Supreme Court, which just had another member controversially confirmed by the Republican-held Senate. The Supreme Court could mandate recounts must stop and that absentee ballots beyond a cut-off date be voided.

Trump could win.

This sounds far-fetched, but it isn’t, and is the exact circumstance in other key swing states such as Michigan. Recent history would suggest that the US Supreme Court is a partisan entity within the current political landscape, as it was in the 2000 presidential election, when it proved more than capable of overriding election processes to declare a victor. In that same ill-fated April election in Wisconsin, the US Supreme Court had the final say in forcing the in-person vote to go forward without a pandemic-induced delay.

This, unfortunately, is not the only controversial path for the Republicans to steal a victory in the convoluted and vastly outdated US election system, but it is a plausible one. Already in Wisconsin alone the blueprint was laid out in April, and in this unpredictable year of 2020, the Wisconsin GOP has been tightening the restrictions since then.

Recent history would suggest that the US Supreme Court is a partisan entity within the current political landscape, as it was in the 2000 presidential election, when it proved more than capable of overriding election processes to declare a victor.

All of this becomes easier to achieve when compounded with the biggest handicap to American voters – that the election takes place on a Tuesday in the cold late autumn month of November, and that Tuesday is not a national holiday. This ensures that anyone with a bad vacation day/ sick leave policy and an inflexible boss will find it difficult to vote. Even Kenya, which to put it mildly, has had its fair share of election day mischief, declares a public holiday when it comes time for citizens to go to the polls.  To that end, it almost seems as though the White House is finally listening to East African countries – albeit not by gleaning democratically constructive lessons but by maintaining a pseudo-legitimate grip on power.

Playing a rigged game

There are already rumblings of “norms” from Democratic Party officials (falling back on the very court processes that will fall to the Conservative-packed Supreme Court) and of trust in “institutions”, despite the said institutions being currently run by interim Trump appointees. It is these same institutions that lock-stop liberal Washington insiders continually decry as being mismanaged and corrupted and not adhering to the very norms that they now claim will be able to salvage an unprecedented election. It is unclear what these Democratic politicos believe to have changed or will change in the coming weeks and months ahead. When you know that there’s rigging within the game and you keep playing it, then you are a sucker. This rings two-fold as you make continual unforced errors, as the Democratic Party seems hell-bent on making across the last half year period.

For example, there is somewhat of a “unicorn” within the US voting bloc – that of the possibly conversion-prone moderate Republican. Under the Trump administration, such figures have sky-rocketed in value, even getting nods of approval from the most venerated of liberal circles if they espouse anti-Trump sentiments. The problem is that they’re unicorns, and unicorns, if they exist at all, are rare. The Biden campaign seems insistent on appealing to these voters, while simultaneously not leaning into the firebrand of righteous anger – the pandemic and the economic and racial inequality that is currently stewing within the massive swathe of 18-35 year-old voters.

One stark incident from recent weeks of Democrats falling into this trap comes with the Biden campaign’s eager acceptance of the endorsement of Rick Snyder, a former Republican governor of the State of Michigan. It was the Snyder administration that oversaw (and then attempted to cover up) the Flint water crisis, in which unneeded switching of water sources for profit directly led to the poisoning of tens of thousands of children within the city of Flint. Flint is a largely black city, and after the Obama administration didn’t sufficiently address or stop the crisis, 8,000 black voters who went twice to the polls for Obama didn’t show up in 2016 for Hillary Clinton. The entirety of Michigan was won by Donald Trump by approximately 10,000 votes. Snyder has multiple lawsuits against him, and among working class liberals across the hotly contested state of Michigan, he is a figure hated with more vigour than even Trump himself. So why accept his endorsement? Why walk the ball into your own post to shoot an own goal?

In an electoral system that could feasibly see Biden win by 10 million votes nationally, but lose if a few key states are won by Trump by even a singular vote a piece, there shouldn’t be such a margin for error.

A horror show

To be sure, the Trump administration has been an abject horror show. It is inept, mean-spirited, openly corrupt, blindingly dumb, and blissfully ignorant and hateful – and that’s a generous assessment. Now, with more than 200,000 dead from the coronavirus in the US, there is open revolt in many cities against a system designed to oppress in an economically devastating period that will be felt for at least a decade.

The Trumpians are doing everything in their power to make sure there isn’t a need for a change in power. Trump said as much on September 24th during a White House press briefing. “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster. We’ll want to have — get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” He followed up by saying that the vote will probably be decided by the Supreme Court, a court he seems poised to skew hopelessly in favour of conservatives.

In September, after the death of Justice Ginsberg, members of the Democratic National Committee were already crying foul at Republican efforts to rush through the next interchangeable arch-conservative judge to the Supreme Court, lamenting the inherent unfairness of the system. While the point is well taken, the Democratic Party establishment at times reminds me of the election efforts of Raila Odinga, in that when you know for certain that your opponent will cheat you at every possible turn, what will you do to rise above it? Are you also willing to get your hands dirty to win? It may be difficult when the assorted second-in-commands surrounding you and propelling the campaign forward find new stumbling blocks to trip over. Raila, like the Democrats, always ends up compromising. The pattern is such that it almost makes one wonder if it was the plan outlined all along.

Now, with more than 200,000 dead from the coronavirus in the US, there is open revolt in many cities against a system designed to oppress in an economically devastating period that will be felt for at least a decade.

For the Democratic camp, there’s certainly reason to be nervous about all the seeking of compromise because Biden himself is an agent of such compromise. He’s inherently a self-described moderate, and has long been known as one of the most conservative Democrats in the US Senate. The country and circumstances have drifted markedly to the left since March of this year, and there is concern in the youthful left wing that Biden, “the establishment candidate”, will drift over to the right.

The continued appeal to the fabled “Reasonable Republicans” to convert is inherently a flawed one – why trade horses when the other man only holds a goat? There is concern among the activist wing that the Democratic National Committee may be giving up far too much, that they might not be that much better, that they are a part of the problem and not helping these ever-deepening emergencies.

On top of the ignoring and dismissive hand waves to the young, the active left wing currently taking to the streets in the latest wave of protests to march against the lack of criminal charges brought against the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor (a Louisville medical worker who was shot and killed in her house after police showed up at the wrong address to fulfill a no-knock drug warrant), there also seems to be a real gap in bringing in more Latino votes into the fold. There have been troubling reports that the Latino population is less in the Democratic camp than they were in 2016, and that Trump is siphoning off votes in key states like Florida and Georgia.

When the Democratic National Convention took place in August, hardly any Latino voice was heard. In this year of brutal underrepresentation coming punching through to the surface, it may be a fatal error to ignore the second largest ethnic group in the country.

The Republican Party sure isn’t ignoring them, or blacks, for that matter. They’re hard at work ensuring that the voters are both too depressed to show up, and hassled drastically if they do so. Justin Clark, a deputy campaign manager for the Trump re-election effort, said as much (thinking he was not being recorded) at a sequestered meeting made up of top Wisconsin Republican litigators in late 2019: “Wisconsin’s the state that is going to tip this one way or the other…So it makes Election Day operations really, really, really important. Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes, Democratic voters are all in one part of the state, so let’s start playing offense a little bit. And that’s what you’re going to see in 2020. That’s what’s going to be markedly different. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program, and we’re going to need all the help we can get.”

Clark later claimed that his comments were taken out of context, but such is almost an after thought. There’s a certain blatancy to the voter suppression efforts this year, and increasingly it seems that there’s little attempt to even hide them any more.

Curveballs

Republicans know a basic fact – that their party is no longer wanted in America; people know that when Republicans hold power, their civil rights are reduced, progressive ideals stagnate, their wages fall, economic recessions strike and wars start. Luckily for them, the system is on the Republicans’ side – and they are exploiting it fully.

On top of all of these factors, there still remains the foreign interference factor, which has already begun a misinformation campaign in earnest.

Such efforts at suppression, coupled with the Democratic Party’s repeated fumbling and falling back on “norms’ to save the process, are troublesome. There is nervousness in America now, but it seems that most people can’t quite comprehend what could happen. It is a certain naiveté that comes along with being taught concepts like “American Exceptionalism” and “Manifest Destiny” from a very young age (while not being taught the basics of civic government). Talking to Americans, it is almost colonialist thinking – they deny something exists because it simply hasn’t been discovered by them yet. I used to hear such sentiments frequently from Americans who had lived and worked in Kenya for years. “I absolutely cannot believe what the Trump administration is doing!” they’d say, to which I’d reply, “What do you mean you ‘can’t believe it’...you live in Kenya.”

Such efforts at suppression, coupled with the Democratic Party’s repeated fumbling and falling back on “norms’ to save the process, are troublesome. There is nervousness in America now, but it seems that most people can’t quite comprehend what could happen.

Despite all of these nervous trepidations there seem to be only two possible outcomes. First, that all of what was just outlined above, combined with several curveballs yet to be revealed, allow Trump to eke out an electoral college victory while losing the popular vote (with more than vague overtones of foreign interference, mail-in voting miseries, voter suppression and Republican assistance). Or, the second option, and a vastly more optimistic one: that Wisconsin’s election in April of 2020 was a preview, a groundswell of anger of a population that had been messed with on a few too many fronts in too short a period of time.

Now, with Trump having been infected with the coronavirus (probably the result of his own reckless advice to Americans to not wear masks or observe social distancing), what comes after November 3rd is an uncertainty of a scale that most Americans simply cannot wrap their minds around.

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Alex is a journalist and social media expert based in Nairobi, Kenya

Politics

Africa’s Land, the Final Frontier of Global Capital

If the designs of global big money are not stopped in their tracks, Africa is threatened with environmental degradation and nutritional poverty.

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Africa’s Land, the Final Frontier of Global Capital
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Three great factors are coming together to constitute what may be a whole new, and final chapter in the book of horrors that have been visited on the African people since the birth of Western European capitalism.

If Native Africans do not begin to think very deeply about what this is going to mean for what is left of them, in terms of their livelihoods and ways of living, then the recent past will seem like a small piece of paradise.

Unlike our ancestors, who are often blamed — opportunistically — for the original conquest of Africa and the trade in enslaved Africans that came before it, this time round, there will be no excuses or debate. Africa now knows what colonial conquest is and what it does, in a way that our unfortunate ancestors could not.

The first factor is that capitalism is fast running out of things to destroy in order to make profits. The climate crisis is the best evidence of this. This has been a long-term trend, certainly since the 1960s. However, the most recent financial collapse of 2008 certainly intensified it. Of the grand things and sectors left for capitalism to ravage, there is the production of food for the masses of people crowded into the towns and cities of the West, with no space, time or fundamental skills to produce it for themselves from scratch.

The global corporate food industry is based on one key assumption: that the human race, as it continues to grow in number, will become less and less able to independently produce food for itself. These is because of embedded assumptions about the inevitability of intensive urbanization, as well as time and lifestyle choices, themselves often culturally encouraged, if not imposed, by the same industry.

Food, that indispensable need, is now recreated as a guaranteed industrial commodity.

And so, a lot of corporate interest and money has migrated into the corporate agriculture sector, globally. Global big money is now trying to colonise food production itself, on a global scale, in order to find new ways of keeping its money valuable. Writing in mod-2011, the late Dani Nabudere perceives a deeper conflict:

During the first three months of 2008-the year the global economic crisis intensified, international nominal prices of all major food commodities reached their highest levels for fifty years. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation-FAO reported that food price indices had risen, on the average, by 8% in 2006 compared with the previous year.  In 2007, the food index rose by 24% compared with 2006 and in the first three months of 2008, it rose by 53% compared with 2007. This sudden surge in prices was led by increases in vegetable oils, which on the average increased by 97%, followed by grains with an increase of 87%, dairy products with 58% and rice with 46%.

This means that investing in food, or the assumption of the future existence of food as a commodity to be traded. In short, what is known as the Futures market. But the problem with futures is that at some point, the commodity will have to come into existence.

The second thing native Africans need to be aware of, and arising from the first, is that African land is going to be in demand in a way not seen even at the height of the period of European colonial domination.

Most of the world’s arable land is now found somewhere in Africa. It is unclear if by this is meant arable land under use, or also land that can be put to agricultural use (but may be located under a forest, or something, at present).

The March 2012 issue of Finance & Development Magazine sheds some light on that equation:

Throughout the world, it is estimated that 445 million hectares of land are uncultivated and available for farming, compared with about 1.5 billion hectares already under cultivation. About 201 million hectares are in sub-Saharan Africa, 123 million in Latin America, and 52 million in eastern Europe. . .

The third factor is that arable land is only arable if it has fresh water near it. And it is only viable for corporate exploitation if it also has no people on it. Africa is therefore the prime target: plenty of fresh water, and very few real land rights.

In my estimation, the area of Africa between the Western and Eastern Rift Valleys running along the length of the Nile valley below the Sahel has been identified as on the last open, near-virgin territories, ripe for intensive mechanized agricultural exploitation.

That area’s human settlements have historically originated around the pattern of freshwater bodies. A lot of Uganda was once a wetland. As a result, the country will find itself located at the very epicentre of any such an enterprise.

Dr Mike Burry, a now legendary American stock market operator is reported in the Farmfolio website to have said, “I believe that agricultural land – productive agricultural land with water on site – will be very valuable in the future . . . . I’ve put a good amount of money into that.”

The website goes on to report quite sarcastically,

Over the next three decades, the UN forecasts the global population to increase to about 10 billion. How do you imagine farmland investments will benefit from an over 30% increase in mouths to feed? Good luck feeding two billion people with Bitcoin or gold nuggets.

In this sense, colonialism was just the attempted start, with the former white settler farm economies of Kenya and southern Africa as the increasingly decrepit leftovers. The goal now is African land in general, wherever land can be turned over to large-scale (and therefore mechanised, “scientised” and corporatized) production of the commodities needed to make factory food.

The implications are clear: the goal of the huge capitalist formations that dominate public and foreign policy in the industrial countries, and whose agribusiness interests have a global reach, is to turn Africa into a huge farm, both as an opportunity, and as a response to an internal crisis.

In a May 2017 opinion piece published in the UK Guardian newspaper, then United Nations Environment Programme Head Erich Solheim made a similar point:

Several scenarios for cropland expansion – many focusing on Africa’s so-called “spare land” – have already effectively written off its elephants from having a future in the wild. These projections have earmarked a huge swathe of land spanning from Nigeria to South Sudan for farming, or parts of West Africa for conversion to palm oil plantations.

All this speaks directly to the immediate future of the African people. Put bluntly, in order to put industrial agriculture in place here, there will have to be genocide, massive environmental damage, widespread human displacement, and therefore repression and conflict as the tools of implementation.

African land is going to be in demand in a way not seen even at the height of the period of European colonial domination.

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), calls the bringing of the US agribusiness model to Africa “a grave mistake”. They describe the model as “the single largest cause of biodiversity loss worldwide,” that “also fails to solve hunger, negatively impacts small-scale farmers, and causes environmental harm.”

It is in this context that the debates in Uganda and Kenya, for example, about land use and policy, can then be appreciated.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has launched a political offensive (once again) against the Kingdom of Buganda, describing its neo-traditional land tenure system as “evil” and in desperate need of reform.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. First of all, Mr Museveni has firmly established himself as the pre-eminent fixer for imperialist ambitions in the Great Lakes Region. Whatever the owners of Western capital want here is what he will always try to deliver, no matter the collateral damage. Secondly, whenever the Ugandan president hatches a plan targeting the wealth and resources of native Ugandans, he begins with an attack on Buganda. Not because there is anything more valuable there, but because it enables the ideological seduction of a useful section of Ugandan political society: Ugandan “patriotism” was built on the notion that native identities are a bad thing, and that the Ganda identity is the worst of all.

It worked in the process of marginalising native voices in the independence movement and replacing them with smooth-talking “pan-Africanists”.

It then worked again with the creation of the culture of dictatorship between 1966 and 1979. Voices raised in opposition were easily dismissed as “divisive”, or retrograde. The mission now, was to build the new non-ethnic nation.

More recently, it has been deployed again to justify global neo-liberal designs on African land, through dismissing native resistance to it as “backward” and “parochial”.

Once it has been politically established that the overriding of native objections to anything is an essential and desirable part of development, then the “principle” can be applied in practice, to all other parts of the country.

Through its loyal and devoted client, the National Resistance Movement regime, Western capitalism is targeting all Ugandan land, regardless of which natives own it and under what system.

The same principle works differently in Kenya, but towards the same end. Initial white settler-based agriculture was never successful. Part of the story of Kenyan independence is actually the story of the Empire at headquarters becoming increasingly unwilling to deploy the economic, political and military resources needed to maintain a colony largely for the benefit of a small group of unproductive, self-regarding “middle-class sluts”, as one of the British commanding officers is alleged to have described the settlers.

However, a legacy of that time is that unlike in Uganda, vast areas of Kenya’s potentially productive land are still in white and foreign ownership. And a lot of this is in areas historically within a pastoralist ecosystem.

A succession of Kenyan governments neglected to address this historical injustice. In fact, through corruption, key individuals in a number of those regimes actively took advantage of the situation and joined the white families in becoming big landholders themselves.

Put bluntly, in order to put industrial agriculture in place here, there will have to be genocide.

Today, the three-way contestation between native (often pastoralist) communities, dogged white and other land oligarchs, and a wavering, uncaring state, rumbles on.

Co-author of The Big Conservation Lie: The Untold Story of Wildlife Conservation in Kenya, longstanding Kenyan conservation biologist, and land rights activist, Mordecai Ogada, has long argued that the whole wildlife tourism-based “conservation” industry run off the vast settler-leased native landholdings is basically a landgrab. The question will be Is this just for tourism, or will it be open to other ventures, like industrial agriculture?

It could lead to something deeper. Arguments for “development” and “rangeland/wildlife conservation” will be mobilised as a cover to carry out large-scale land grabbing and the eviction of peasants and pastoralists from lands they have historically occupied. Not just for the parochial descendants of the original white settlers now turned “conservationists”, but the kind of mega-scale mechanised planting that has been so central (and destructive) to the American mid-west, the Amazon basin, and native Canada.

This was also partly how the war that eventually split Sudan played out in the now separated south, and still plays out in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains. A significant section of Arab-descended northern economic elites was centered on the production of wheat. According to the Sudanese intellectual Dr Fatimer Babiker Mahmoud, in the late 1980s, this sector was making millions of dollars annually from the large-scale planting, harvesting and export of the grain to Europe, Asia and the Arab world.

Sometimes this meant the clearing of the more fertile lands of the south, the Nuba mountain lowlands and the Darfur region – all largely inhabited by Black Africans –  for the mechanised growing of wheat. This is what gave the conflict its racial character, as Arab chauvinist arguments were used to justify this genocide.

But, as with the white settler projects, these should be seen as trial runs in the greater measurement of our economic history. There is a need to understand the sheer scale and scope of these operations.

What may be coming will be much grander in scale, out of both Western necessity and greed.

Of the top ten foods listed as traded the most within global trade by  the Just-Food Magazine website in 2014, (fish, soybean, wheat, palm oil, beef, soybean meal, corn, chicken meat, rice and coffee) there are five key items that drive the processed food industry: palm oil, wheat, soya and corn.  It seems sugar cannot be accurately measured because it features in just about anything processed.

In addition, meat production (chicken, beef and pork) is dependent on the others on the list. Cattle are fed on corn, and soya (and the soybean meal) comprises part of what is fed to chickens.

The scale of the operations means that huge sums of money are invested. In today’s world, this means money from banks and institutional investors (hedge funds, etc.) as shareholders in agribusiness corporations. Poultry factories can contain up to forty thousand chickens permanently locked in cages for laying, or just warehouses of several thousand square feet. In early 2020, some 20 million chickens were being slaughtered each week in the United Kingdom. Corn and other grain are usually planted on lots measuring thousands of hectares apiece.

When investing on this scale, certain guarantees must be put in place. These are not matters that are left to chance, or fortune. And the primary purpose of all capitalist economic activity, especially in the West, is to obtain the biggest private return possible on any investment. And also usually in the shortest possible turnaround time.

This is why “insurance” measures are locked in from the start. In particular, chemical-based fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides and also increasingly, the use of genetically modified seeds and livestock, as well as steroids and antibiotics to promote rapid growth and prevent sicknesses.

In fact, through corruption, key individuals in a number of those regimes actively took advantage of the situation and joined the white families in becoming big landholders themselves.

The goal is huge, regular volumes of uniform products to be processed and marketed to huge urbanized populations.

The whole commercialisation process begins in the West, where this industry is the most developed. The European conquest of the continents of north and South America, also mark the period when food production migrated from being a community-based activity, to an industry.

This led to the clearance of human settlement from large areas of land, as well as the destruction of forests and wetlands, all to make way for the animal ranches and very big plantations.

This way of life is now being increasingly imposed on all societies, as “the normal”.

The recent riots in the Republic of South Africa for example, are an illustration of the dangers of becoming prisoners of a privately owned, mechanised food supply system, and also an attempted repudiation of it.

The rest of Africa is quickly “catching up” to this advanced backwardness, with the increasing rate of unplanned migration to urban centers due to loss of opportunities in community-based agriculture.

In Uganda for example, this process was driven by the intentional Museveni-led neo-liberal disruptions to the adapted system of community-based agriculture that has been built up in the country over a period of nearly eight decades.

Agricultural production remains at the heart of this struggle. The Africans sought to ensure that they continued to produce their indigenous food crops so as to retain food sovereignty, while at the same time engaging in the new cash crop economy that was encroaching on their land and labour power.

Official African policy within each African state, as well as in the regional economic blocs and the various policy and finance bodies (such as the African Development Bank), remain uncritically in support (or at least not opposed) to this general strategic direction.

What may be coming will be much grander in scale, out of both Western necessity and greed.

“Africa must start by treating agriculture as a business,” wrote African Development Bank (AfDB) President Dr Akinwumi Adesina, in African Business magazine in 2017.  “It must learn fast from experiences elsewhere, for example in south east Asia, where agriculture has been the foundation for fast-paced economic growth, built on a strong food processing and agro-industrial manufacturing base.”

Our official planners suffer from a tragic tendency of conflating any activity involving money and machines, with “development”. The intention is to duplicate life as it is almost universally led in the Western-style countries. They think is will bring “industrialisation”, and through that, jobs.

There are four significant conflicts or budding conflicts on the continent right now, in which arable land for mechanisation will increasingly become a factor. These are in southern Ethiopia, Congo and the whole Sahel zone, anchored on Nigeria (and Sudan), and Kenya.

If these developments are not challenged and stopped, Africa can look forward to environmental degradation, and nutritional poverty.

We will all become Africans in South Africa, and poor people in the West.

Assuming the Western industrial system lasts much longer. And that the planet also does.

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Politics

How Capitalism Uses and Abuses the Arts

The arts business is a very flawed, archaic and extremely exploitative model but artists continue to rely on corporate sponsorship, without questioning the shrinking spaces and opportunities for the arts to thrive.

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How Capitalism Uses and Abuses the Arts
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In my last piece, I talked about how our education system destroys the arts by corrupting the meaning of education, work and the arts. And I said that these lies that are perpetuated in the name of education come from the unholy and abusive marriage between education and business. (I have said elsewhere that this marriage should be annulled immediately.)

In this piece, I’m going to talk about how capitalist business is the prime beneficiary of the terrible state of the arts in Kenya.

​Businesses swing artists between two extremes. On one hand, which I already explained in my previous letter, the business (parasite) sector encourages the education system to degrade the arts, so that art does not look like real work that takes skill and resources. By doing that, the business sector justifies artists not being paid for their work. If you have noticed that you are not getting paid, or your payment is delayed, it is because of that madharau for the arts. The accountants cooking books look at you and think to themselves “Why should I pay someone for shaking around or singing for people? Even I could have done that work if I wasn’t here balancing books.”

On the other hand, capitalism does pay artists huge amounts of money, like we see in Hollywood where people like Oprah and Jay Z have become billionaires through entertainment.

In the end, artists are treated like battered spouses. One minute, a spouse is being abused and beaten, and the next minute, when the battered person has had enough, the abuser apologizes, swears how much they love the battered person and promises not to beat the spouse again. And the cycle starts again.

Art and wealth

The first thing to understand about the arts business is that it is a very flawed, archaic and extremely exploitative model. I will talk mainly about music, but book publishing and other types of art business work using the same principle.

Basically, the art business uses the rentier model, like a landlord. A landlord builds a house once but earns money on that house as long as he owns the right to that house. The “work” of living there, or the business carried out there, is done by other people, but the landlord earns a cut of that work despite doing no work. Simply because he owns the property in which the work was done.

And that is the same thing record labels and studios do. They provide initial capital and make the artist sign a 360-degree contract that allows the label to earn from everything the artist is involved in for the rest of the artist’s life: performance, recording, brand merchandise and even artistic license. An artist who is signed to a record label is an enslaved person. In the US, artists who are lucky earn 10 to 15 per cent of the revenues they generate for the music industry. The rest are unlucky and earn much less, if anything.

Imagine that. For every artist billionaire we know, their record label earns nine times more.

As an artist, you’re probably thinking, “Well, it may be exploitative but at least it works. Why can’t those exploiters come and work in Kenya?”

Actually, they are working here, and we know it. They have names like MCSK and Liberty Afrika. And the way these companies exploit artists is the same way other companies exploit everybody else in employment. The wages we earn are nothing compared to the profits that entitled, lazy and ignorant fat cats make from our work, and yet — as we see with the doctors — companies are constantly coming up with new schemes to avoid paying us for the work we do.

An artist who is signed to a record label is an enslaved person.

And we should not compare ourselves to the Queen Beys and Justin Beibers of the West; rather, we should be aware that even in the Westmany artists are exploited.

I tell my arts students that they should spend time in the university studying and imagining a different model for earning income from the arts. For instance, 360-degree contracts should be considered slavery and outlawed. Saying that every future income of an artist is tied to the initial capital invested in their recording is just as ridiculous as a food supplier to a restaurant saying that they should earn 90 per cent of every plate or meal served by the restaurant. Once the food is delivered and paid for, the contract should end there. Artists should pay studios, publishers and marketers separately as bills, not on promise of royalties.

But because my students have been told that education is only for jobs, none has ever taken up my challenge to think about this.

Virgin territory

There is another form of abuse and exploitation of artists that is less talked about because it is less easy to quantify. That is idea theft.

Through platforms like hubs, and through demanding proposals for shows and other performances, institutions exploits the artist’s energy and innovation, then pull the rug from under the artist and run off with the idea. That is why artists will start small concert gigs and before long, corporates, instead of sponsoring those gigs, create their own versions because they can pour in the money to make it big.

And these initially sustainable and indigenous ideas soon turn into monsters. These corporates invade natural parks like Hells Gate to sell even bigger than they should. Not only do they subvert eco-systems, they also crush their conservation opponents with media blitz and economic blackmail. What started as a Kenyan artistic initiative is not only hijacked but also turned into a short term, exploitative and destructive tsunami that dies almost as soon as it is born.

I tell my arts students that they should spend time in the university studying and imagining a different model for earning income from the arts.

Other artists report having given studios or media houses an idea for a show, leaving with a promise that they will hear from the producers. Within a few weeks, they see a bad version of the show they proposed. Is it a wonder that television entertainment is so unimaginative and poorly executed?

But this is the nature of capitalism: like a paedophile, it lets nothing mature and thrive. It instead derives a perverted sense of pleasure from exploiting the vulnerable and destroying budding ideas before the ideas develop to maturity.

Impunity and abuse

This paedophilia is replicated across all institutions. As someone recently said on Twitter, we are often employed on the promise of our ideas, upon which we are promptly frustrated and prevented from developing them.

No institution has escaped change and democratic supervision like the workplace. Workers around the world are succumbing to the abuse of the workplace, whether they are employed or not. Stress levels are high, and sexual bullying, mental illness, addiction and suicide are on the rise. The workplace has become a crime scene, where people get away with abuse and psychological torture.

But what is slightly unique about the arts is that when artists suffer from the same vices, the business world convinces us that this inhumanity is part of the artists’ creativity. That is why the high rate of depression and suicide among artists is not treated as a pandemic. When artists suffer violence such as being shot in clubs and being drugged and raped, we the abused and terrorized Kenyan public thinks that their abuse comes with the artistic territory.

In fact, we even accept that the business community does not treat artists as workers like other employees. Artists are not paid a salary, pension and benefits. They don’t go on leave. They are on the road all the time, or constantly searching for new gigs and new contracts, and never taking a break. The constant toil takes a toll on their minds and bodies and they start to use substances to stabilize their lives instead of getting some rest. Then there is the parasite industry of the paparazzi who make sales from intruding on artists’ lives and selling the details to the world.

The workplace has become a crime scene, where people get away with abuse and psychological torture.

But instead of us criminalizing these vices committed against artists, we let the business world convince us that this inhumanity is part of the artists’ creativity. That is utter nonsense.

Worse, the impunity also makes every new generation join the arts thinking that creativity requires criminality, substance abuse and insanity.

And the business sector has an evil, devilish interest in making literal murder and depravity acceptable for artists. Because of the power of the arts to free people, capitalism cannot let the arts thrive on their own, for the arts will inspire the people to challenge the tyranny of business by looking for alternative business models.

But at the same time, capitalism needs the power of the arts to manipulate people to behave in the interests of business. It puts the arts on a leash, so that the arts go only where capital wants the arts to go — to sedating the masses into accepting exploitation or into buying things.

And the artists, unfortunately, are joined to corporations at the hip and naively celebrate their reliance on corporate sponsorship, without questioning the shrinking spaces and opportunities for the arts to thrive.

And we artists need to understand that this abusive relationship is made possible by the hostility of the church. Instead of the church being our refuge in times of trouble, the clergy side with the state when the state crushes us through bans and censorship that are implemented in the name of morality.

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Politics

Laikipia Land Crisis: A Ticking Time Bomb

Historic land injustices, changing land ownership and use, and heightened competition for natural resources — exacerbated by the effects of climate change — make for a perfect storm.

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“Here we have a territory (now that the Uganda Railway is built) admirably suited for a white man’s country, and I can say this with no thought of injustice to any native race, for the country in question is either utterly uninhabited for miles and miles or at most its inhabitants are wandering hunters who have no settled home . . . .” Sir Harry Johnstone

There have been significant changes in the pattern of land ownership in Laikipia in the last two decades. These changes are set against a background of profound inequalities in land ownership in a county where, according to data in the Ministry of Lands, 40.3 per cent of the land is controlled by 48 individuals or entities. The changes have not brought about an improvement in the lives of the pastoralists and other indigenous communities who occupied Laikipia before colonisation. These groups — and the Maasai in particular, following their 1904 and 1911 treaties with the British — were forced out and relegated to reserves in southern Kenya to make way for the establishment of large commercial ranches owned by White settlers. Those indigenous inhabitants who remained were pushed by subsequent colonial legislation to Mukogodo in the north of the county, the driest part of Laikipia.

The pastoralists did not recover their land with the end of colonial rule. On the contrary, Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya, encouraged White settlers to remain after independence and today, some of the descendants of those settlers who decided to make Kenya their permanent home still occupy vast swathes of land in Laikipia County. Those who were unwilling to remain in Kenya under majority rule sold their land to the Kenyatta administration. As Catherine Boone, Fibian Lukalo and Sandra Joireman observe in Promised Land: Settlement Schemes in Kenya, 1962 to 2016,

With the approach of independence, the settler state and the British government stepped in to protect the interests of Kenya’s white land-owners by creating a land market for white settlers who wanted to sell their agricultural holdings, and supporting land values for those who wanted to stay. The buyer of most of these properties was the Government of Kenya, using loans provided by the British Government and the World Bank. Through this process, the Kenyan state acquired about half of the land in the (ex-) Scheduled Areas.

In 1968, under the World Bank-funded Kenya Livestock Development Programme — whose stated objective was “to increase beef production for home consumption and export mainly by subsistence pastoral groups” — the government enacted the Land (Group Representative) Act (Cap. 287) that saw the creation of 13 group ranches in the northern part of Laikipia, which is the driest part of the county. However, well-connected local elites helped themselves to part of the land, excised as individual ranches. There are 36 such individual ranches that should have been part of the group ranches.

Those ranches that were sold to the Kenyan government by the departing British settlers are within the expansive Laikipia plateau. The government later sold them to land buying companies formed by Kikuyus that in turn subdivided them into individual holdings. Examples of such lands include Kamnarok, Kimugandura, Kirimukuyu, Mathenge, Ireri and Endana, among others. The remaining land was gazetted as government land such ADC Mutara and Kirimon, or outspans such as Ngarendare and Mukogodo, which were used for finishing livestock for sale to the Kenya Meat Commission.

Land tenure and use

In the Kenyan context, and compared to other counties, the history of land in Laikipia County is unique, with a diversity of tenure systems each representing a unique system of production. The map below shows the different land use and tenure systems in Laikipia County that include large-scale ranches, large-scale farms, group ranches and smallholder farms.

There are 48 large-scale ranches sitting on 40.3 per cent of the total land area in Laikipia County, 9,532.2km², some of which are still owned by the descendants of the colonial settlers. The ranches  occupy huge tracts of land, the three largest being Laikipia Nature Conservancy with 107,000 acres, Ol Pejeta with 88,923.79 acres, and Loisaba with 62,092.97 acres.

Source: Ministry of Lands

Most of these large-scale ranches — many of which have an integrated economic system that includes livestock, horticulture, wildlife conservation and tourism — were acquired during the colonial period and legislation governing their ownership was taken from the colonial law and integrated into the constitution of independent Kenya under the land transfer agreement between the colonial government and the Kenyatta regime. It should be noted that the Maasai land campaign of 2004 pushing the government to address historical injustices following the forced ouster of Maasai from their ancestral lands in Laikipia, brought to light the fact that some of these ranches had no legal documents of ownership. In an article titled In the Grip of the Vampire State: Maasai Land Struggles in Kenyan Politics published in the Journal of Eastern African Studies, Parselelo Kantai observes,

Ranchers interviewed could not remember how long their own land-leases were supposed to last, were unaware of the Anglo-Maasai Agreement, and, in at least one case, were unable to produce title deeds to their ranches. And when opinion was expressed, it bordered on the absurd: the ‘invaders’, observed Ms Odile de Weck, who had inherited her father’s 3,600-acre Loldoto Farm, were not genuine — not Maasai at all. They were, she noted emphatically, Kikuyus. The Maasai, she said, had willingly ceded rights to Laikipia, had been compensated long ago and now resided happily in some other part of Kenya, far away.

Immediately following the campaign, the Ministry of Lands started putting out advertisements in the print media inviting those landowners whose leases were expiring to contact it.

Twenty-three large-scale farms occupy 1.48 per cent of the land in Laikipia County. These farms are mostly owned by individuals from the former Central Province who bought the land following sub-division by the Kenyatta administration, or through land buying companies, which opted not to sub-divide the land but to use it as collateral to access bank loans.

Source: Ministry of Lands

Smallholdings sit on 27.21 per cent of the total land area in Laikipia County. These farms were initially large-scale farms bought by groups of individuals who later sub-divided them into smallholdings of between two and five acres. There are three categories of farmers in this group: those who bought land and settled to escape land pressure in their ancestral homes, those who bought the land for speculative purposes, and those who bought land and used it as collateral for bank loans. A majority of the first group still live on their farms, practising subsistence, rain-fed agriculture. Most members of the other two groups are absentee landowners whose idle land has over time been occupied by pastoralists in search of water and pasture for their animals, or by squatters seeking to escape the population pressure in the group ranches. In some cases, pastoralists have bought the idle land and have title.

The 13 group ranches cover 7.45 per cent of the total Laikipia land area and are occupied by pastoralists who use them for communal grazing. However, some of the group ranches such as Il Ngwesi, Kijabe, Lekurruki and Koija have also established wildlife conservancies and built tourist lodges.

Laikipia land use.

Source: CETRAD

Changing land ownership, changing landscapes

Since the late 1990s, when agitation for political reforms and a new constitution began in earnest, and in the intervening period, new patterns of land ownership and land use have been emerging in Laikipia County.

Data from the Laikipia County Government indicates that 16 of the 48 large-scale ranches have been internally sub-divided into units of between 3,000 and 4,000 acres, with the land rates due for each sub-division paid according to the size of the sub-division. The sub-divisions are made through private arrangements and do not appear in the records at the Ministry of Lands. There are claims that the sub-divided parcels have been ceded to European retirees looking to acquire land for holiday homes in Laikipia, and to White Zimbabweans. There are also claims that the large, palatial, private residences that have sprung up within the sub-divided parcels are in fact tourist destinations for a high-end clientele in a business that operates outside Kenya’s tourism regulatory framework and violates Kenya tax laws.

In the Kenyan context, and compared to other counties, the history of land in Laikipia County is unique, with a diversity of tenure systems each representing a unique system of production.

Whatever the case, the County Government of Laikipia confirms, “Most of the white settlers buying property are soldiers or tourists who loved the [county’s] climate, its people and natural beauty and want to experience it all over again. Big time investors [sic] in real estate flock the area, either to buy or construct multi-million shilling holiday homes, targeting wealthy European settlers and tourists.”

The Laikipia County Government also confirms that the large-scale ranches have also been leasing training grounds to the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK), adding, “In 2009 BATUK expanded these grounds to 11 privately owned ranches, including Sosian, Ol Maisor and the Laikipia Nature Conservancy.”

Multinationals have also moved in, buying up the large-scale farms, particularly those situated near permanent sources of water, where they have set up horticultural businesses growing crops for export to the European market. The arrival of export horticulture in Laikipia has increased competition for resources as “agro-industrial horticulture, pastoralism and small holder agriculture compete for land, capital, and water, with access to water being particularly hotly contested.”

Absentee owners of smallholdings that have over time been occupied by squatters are also selling their land. With the help of brokers and officials from the Ministry of Lands, the smallholdings are consolidated and sold to individuals and companies who may not be aware that the land is occupied and that the sale could be a potential source of conflict.

Only the group ranches — which are occupied by pastoralists who use traditional grazing management techniques — have not changed hands and remain intact. They are, however, facing pressure from a growing population, intensive grazing and increasingly frequent droughts that are putting a strain on the natural resources.

On the other hand, most of the land gazetted as government land has been grabbed by senior government officials, politicians and military personnel. Of the 36 government outspans, only four remain. Outspans neighbouring large-scale ranches have been grabbed by the ranch managers and such grabbed land has since changed hands and been acquired by individuals.

Where farmers were settled in forests during the era of former President Daniel arap Moi, forest cover was plundered for timber and the forest floor given over to cultivation. When President Mwai Kibaki succeeded Moi, these farmers were constantly under threat of eviction but they continue to occupy the forests to date. There are, however, intact forest reserves where on-going human activity has not had a negative impact. They are used and managed by pastoralists as grazing lands, or managed by conservation groups, or by the government.

Impact of change of ownership on other livelihood groups 

Land deals are coming to compound an already existing multiplicity of problems related to the access, use and management of scarce resources in Laikipia County. Compared to neighbouring counties, in the past Laikipia received moderate rainfall and severe droughts like those experienced in 2009, in 2017 and now in 2021 were the exception. This attracted pastoralists from Baringo, Samburu and Isiolo counties to settle in the county in search of water and pasture for their livestock.

Over time, land pressure in central Kenya also forced subsistence farmers to move and settle in Laikipia, practicing rain-fed agriculture and keeping small herds of sheep, goats and cattle. This has led to competition for space and resources that has been compounded by frequent and increasingly severe droughts in recent years.

“The Maasai, she said, had willingly ceded rights to Laikipia, had been compensated long ago and now resided happily in some other part of Kenya, far away.”

The consolidation of smallholdings belonging to absentee owners where land that had previously been sub-divided into units of between two and five acres is now being merged to form bigger units of 500 acres and above, sold off and fenced is further reducing the land available to pastoralists and to squatters who have been using such idle land to graze livestock and grow crops, leaving them with limited options and leading to an increase in levels of vulnerability as they have to rely on relief food in order to survive.

The smallholder land consolidation process, which is being undertaken by former ranch managers who are brokering for individual buyers, is also blamed for the over-exploitation of natural resources in some areas and their conservation in others. In those areas occupied by farming communities, forest cover has been exploited either for charcoal burning, firewood or timber production as people look for alternative sources of livelihood. In the smallholdings where pastoralists have title, overgrazing of the rangelands due to constrained mobility does not allow the range to regenerate. This in turn has led to the degradation of the land and the emergence of unpalatable invasive species of plants like prosopis that render grazing areas unusable, further compounding the problem of access to pasture in the few areas left for pastoralists to graze.

In the group ranches, the most degraded rangelands are overrun with opuntia stricta, an invasive species of cactus whose fruit is harmful to livestock and has caused “economic losses in excess of US$500 in 48% of households in Laikipia”.

On the other hand, in the large-scale ranches, large farms, consolidated smallholder farms and group ranches where conservation and resource use fall under the intensive management of a few individuals, the availability of resources is assured even during times of stress. However, the availability of resources for one group of users and the lack of resources for another often leads to conflict as those without poach from those who have them. One example is when pastoralists graze illegally in the large-scale ranches whenever there is scarcity in their own areas, leading to arrests and sometimes confiscation of livestock from the pastoralists by government agencies in an attempt to protect the large-scale ranches.

Historical injustices and government failures

Article 60 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 guarantees equitable access to land and security of land rights. Further, Article 68(c)(1) states, “Parliament shall enact legislation to prescribe minimum and maximum land holding acreages in respect of private land.” Parliament has failed to pass such legislation and, indeed, the government has shied away from addressing historical land injustices in Kenya in general and in Laikipia – where they are most visible – in particular. Policy makers rarely discuss justice in the context of land reform and what has taken place are land law reforms in lieu of the essential land reforms that would confront the material consequences of unequal access to land. As Ambreena Manji observes in her paper Whose Land is it Anyway?,

The consequences of a legalistic approach to land reform are starkly evident in Kenya’s new land laws. First and foremost, it foreclosed debates about redistribution, prioritising land law reform as the most effective way to address land problems and so evading more difficult questions about who controls access to land how a more just distribution might be achieved.

The recent violence that visited death and destruction on parts of Laikipia is a continuation and an escalation of a crisis that first came to a head in May 2000 when pastoralists drove their livestock into Loldaiga farm. Then the Moi government intervened and allowed the pastoralists into the Mt Kenya and Aberdare forests while big ranchers supported the government by allowing some animals onto their ranches.

In 2004, pastoralists again occupied commercial ranches while agitating for the non-renewal of land leases which they believed had expired. This time the Kibaki government used force to dislodge them. However, the question of land leases remains unresolved to date. Outbreaks of violence have become more frequent since 2009, caused by a combination of factors including the effects of climate change and increasingly frequent droughts that force pastoralists from neighbouring Baringo, Isiolo and Samburu into Laikipia in search of water and pasture. This inevitably leads to conflicts with ranchers onto whose land they drive their animals.

Population pressure, from both humans and livestock, is another cause of conflict in Laikipia. The carrying capacity of group ranches is stretched to the limit while it is plenty on neighbouring commercial ranches. Moreover, population migration to Laikipia from neighbouring counties is placing additional pressure on resources.

The sub-divisions are made through private arrangements and do not appear in the records at the Ministry of Lands.

The proliferation of small arms in the county has added to the insecurity; pastoralists from neighbouring counties invade and occupy commercial ranches, conservancies, smallholdings and forests armed with sophisticated weapons. Laikipia pastoralists have also acquired weapons both to defend themselves and their animals and to invade other land.

Politicians have since 2009 also been encouraging pastoralists from neighbouring counties to move to Laikipia on promises of protection in exchange for votes. There are also claims that politicians have been helping the pastoralists to acquire arms and that most of the livestock being grazed in private ranches and farms belongs to senior government officials and politicians who have exerted pressure on the government not to act on the pastoralists.

In the twilight of another Kenyatta government, relations between the commercial farmers and ranchers, the pastoralists and the smallholders remain poor and there is a lot of suspicion among them, with each group acting as an isolated entity. But for how long can the big commercial ranches and large-scale farms continue to thrive in the midst of poor farmers and dispossessed pastoralists?

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