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.
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.
Support The Elephant.
The Elephant is helping to build a truly public platform, while producing consistent, quality investigations, opinions and analysis. The Elephant cannot survive and grow without your participation. Now, more than ever, it is vital for The Elephant to reach as many people as possible.
Your support helps protect The Elephant's independence and it means we can continue keeping the democratic space free, open and robust. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our collective future.
Asylum Pact: Rwanda Must Do Some Political Housecleaning
Rwandans are welcoming, but the government’s priority must be to solve the internal political problems which produce refugees.
The governments of the United Kingdom and Rwanda have signed an agreement to move asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda for processing. This partnership has been heavily criticized and has been referred to as unethical and inhumane. It has also been opposed by the United Nations Refugee Agency on the grounds that it is contrary to the spirit of the Refugee Convention.
Here in Rwanda, we heard the news of the partnership on the day it was signed. The subject has never been debated in the Rwandan parliament and neither had it been canvassed in the local media prior to the announcement.
According to the government’s official press release, the partnership reflects Rwanda’s commitment to protect vulnerable people around the world. It is argued that by relocating migrants to Rwanda, their dignity and rights will be respected and they will be provided with a range of opportunities, including for personal development and employment, in a country that has consistently been ranked among the safest in the world.
A considerable number of Rwandans have been refugees and therefore understand the struggle that comes with being an asylum seeker and what it means to receive help from host countries to rebuild lives. Therefore, most Rwandans are sensitive to the plight of those forced to leave their home countries and would be more than willing to make them feel welcome. However, the decision to relocate the migrants to Rwanda raises a number of questions.
The government argues that relocating migrants to Rwanda will address the inequalities in opportunity that push economic migrants to leave their homes. It is not clear how this will work considering that Rwanda is already the most unequal country in the East African region. And while it is indeed seen as among the safest countries in the world, it was however ranked among the bottom five globally in the recently released 2022 World Happiness Index. How would migrants, who may have suffered psychological trauma fare in such an environment, and in a country that is still rebuilding itself?
A considerable number of Rwandans have been refugees and therefore understand the struggle that comes with being an asylum seeker and what it means to receive help from host countries to rebuild lives.
What opportunities can Rwanda provide to the migrants? Between 2018—the year the index was first published—and 2020, Rwanda’s ranking on the Human Capital Index (HCI) has been consistently low. Published by the World Bank, HCI measures which countries are best at mobilising the economic and professional potential of their citizens. Rwanda’s score is lower than the average for sub-Saharan Africa and it is partly due to this that the government had found it difficult to attract private investment that would create significant levels of employment prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment, particularly among the youth, has since worsened.
Despite the accolades Rwanda has received internationally for its development record, Rwanda’s economy has never been driven by a dynamic private or trade sector; it has been driven by aid. The country’s debt reached 73 per cent of GDP in 2021 while its economy has not developed the key areas needed to achieve and secure genuine social and economic transformation for its entire population. In addition to human capital development, these include social capital development, especially mutual trust among citizens considering the country’s unfortunate historical past, establishing good relations with neighbouring states, respect for human rights, and guaranteeing the accountability of public officials.
Rwanda aspires to become an upper middle-income country by 2035 and a high-income country by 2050. In 2000, the country launched a development plan that aimed to transform it into a middle-income country by 2020 on the back on a knowledge economy. That development plan, which has received financial support from various development partners including the UK which contributed over £1 billion, did not deliver the anticipated outcomes. Today the country remains stuck in the category of low-income states. Its structural constraints as a small land-locked country with few natural resources are often cited as an obstacle to development. However, this is exacerbated by current governance in Rwanda, which limits the political space, lacks separation of powers, impedes freedom of expression and represses government critics, making it even harder for Rwanda to reach the desired developmental goals.
Rwanda’s structural constraints as a small land-locked country with no natural resources are often viewed as an obstacle to achieving the anticipated development.
As a result of the foregoing, Rwanda has been producing its own share of refugees, who have sought political and economic asylum in other countries. The UK alone took in 250 Rwandese last year. There are others around the world, the majority of whom have found refuge in different countries in Africa, including countries neighbouring Rwanda. The presence of these refugees has been a source of tension in the region with Kigali accusing neighbouring states of supporting those who want to overthrow the government by force. Some Rwandans have indeed taken up armed struggle, a situation that, if not resolved, threatens long-term security in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. In fact, the UK government’s advice on travel to Rwanda has consistently warned of the unstable security situation near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi.
While Rwanda’s intention to help address the global imbalance of opportunity that fuels illegal immigration is laudable, I would recommend that charity start at home. As host of the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled for June 2022, and Commonwealth Chair-in-Office for the next two years, the government should seize the opportunity to implement the core values and principles of the Commonwealth, particularly the promotion of democracy, the rule of law, freedom of expression, political and civil rights, and a vibrant civil society. This would enable Rwanda to address its internal social, economic and political challenges, creating a conducive environment for long-term economic development, and durable peace that will not only stop Rwanda from producing refugees but will also render the country ready and capable of economically and socially integrating refugees from less fortunate countries in the future.
Beyond Borders: Why We Need a Truly Internationalist Climate Justice Movement
The elite’s ‘solution’ to the climate crisis is to turn the displaced into exploitable migrant labour. We need a truly internationalist alternative.
“We are not drowning, we are fighting” has become the rallying call for the Pacific Climate Warriors. From UN climate meetings to blockades of Australian coal ports, these young Indigenous defenders from twenty Pacific Island states are raising the alarm of global warming for low-lying atoll nations. Rejecting the narrative of victimisation – “you don’t need my pain or tears to know that we’re in a crisis,” as Samoan Brianna Fruean puts it – they are challenging the fossil fuel industry and colonial giants such as Australia, responsible for the world’s highest per-capita carbon emissions.
Around the world, climate disasters displace around 25.3 million people annually – one person every one to two seconds. In 2016, new displacements caused by climate disasters outnumbered new displacements as a result of persecution by a ratio of three to one. By 2050, an estimated 143 million people will be displaced in just three regions: Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. Some projections for global climate displacement are as high as one billion people.
Mapping who is most vulnerable to displacement reveals the fault lines between rich and poor, between the global North and South, and between whiteness and its Black, Indigenous and racialised others.
Globalised asymmetries of power create migration but constrict mobility. Displaced people – the least responsible for global warming – face militarised borders. While climate change is itself ignored by the political elite, climate migration is presented as a border security issue and the latest excuse for wealthy states to fortify their borders. In 2019, the Australian Defence Forces announced military patrols around Australia’s waters to intercept climate refugees.
The burgeoning terrain of “climate security” prioritises militarised borders, dovetailing perfectly into eco-apartheid. “Borders are the environment’s greatest ally; it is through them that we will save the planet,” declares the party of French far-Right politician Marine Le Pen. A US Pentagon-commissioned report on the security implications of climate change encapsulates the hostility to climate refugees: “Borders will be strengthened around the country to hold back unwanted starving immigrants from the Caribbean islands (an especially severe problem), Mexico, and South America.” The US has now launched Operation Vigilant Sentry off the Florida coast and created Homeland Security Task Force Southeast to enforce marine interdiction and deportation in the aftermath of disasters in the Caribbean.
Labour migration as climate mitigation
you broke the ocean in
half to be here.
only to meet nothing that wants you
– Nayyirah Waheed
Parallel to increasing border controls, temporary labour migration is increasingly touted as a climate adaptation strategy. As part of the ‘Nansen Initiative’, a multilateral, state-led project to address climate-induced displacement, the Australian government has put forward its temporary seasonal worker program as a key solution to building climate resilience in the Pacific region. The Australian statement to the Nansen Initiative Intergovernmental Global Consultation was, in fact, delivered not by the environment minister but by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Beginning in April 2022, the new Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme will make it easier for Australian businesses to temporarily insource low-wage workers (what the scheme calls “low-skilled” and “unskilled” workers) from small Pacific island countries including Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu. Not coincidentally, many of these countries’ ecologies and economies have already been ravaged by Australian colonialism for over one hundred years.
It is not an anomaly that Australia is turning displaced climate refugees into a funnel of temporary labour migration. With growing ungovernable and irregular migration, including climate migration, temporary labour migration programs have become the worldwide template for “well-managed migration.” Elites present labour migration as a double win because high-income countries fill their labour shortage needs without providing job security or citizenship, while low-income countries alleviate structural impoverishment through migrants’ remittances.
Dangerous, low-wage jobs like farm, domestic, and service work that cannot be outsourced are now almost entirely insourced in this way. Insourcing and outsourcing represent two sides of the same neoliberal coin: deliberately deflated labour and political power. Not to be confused with free mobility, temporary labour migration represents an extreme neoliberal approach to the quartet of foreign, climate, immigration, and labour policy, all structured to expand networks of capital accumulation through the creation and disciplining of surplus populations.
The International Labour Organization recognises that temporary migrant workers face forced labour, low wages, poor working conditions, virtual absence of social protection, denial of freedom association and union rights, discrimination and xenophobia, as well as social exclusion. Under these state-sanctioned programs of indentureship, workers are legally tied to an employer and deportable. Temporary migrant workers are kept compliant through the threats of both termination and deportation, revealing the crucial connection between immigration status and precarious labour.
Through temporary labour migration programs, workers’ labour power is first captured by the border and this pliable labour is then exploited by the employer. Denying migrant workers permanent immigration status ensures a steady supply of cheapened labour. Borders are not intended to exclude all people, but to create conditions of ‘deportability’, which increases social and labour precarity. These workers are labelled as ‘foreign’ workers, furthering racist xenophobia against them, including by other workers. While migrant workers are temporary, temporary migration is becoming the permanent neoliberal, state-led model of migration.
Reparations include No Borders
“It’s immoral for the rich to talk about their future children and grandchildren when the children of the Global South are dying now.” – Asad Rehman
Discussions about building fairer and more sustainable political-economic systems have coalesced around a Green New Deal. Most public policy proposals for a Green New Deal in the US, Canada, UK and the EU articulate the need to simultaneously tackle economic inequality, social injustice, and the climate crisis by transforming our extractive and exploitative system towards a low-carbon, feminist, worker and community-controlled care-based society. While a Green New Deal necessarily understands the climate crisis and the crisis of capitalism as interconnected — and not a dichotomy of ‘the environment versus the economy’ — one of its main shortcomings is its bordered scope. As Harpreet Kaur Paul and Dalia Gebrial write: “the Green New Deal has largely been trapped in national imaginations.”
Any Green New Deal that is not internationalist runs the risk of perpetuating climate apartheid and imperialist domination in our warming world. Rich countries must redress the global and asymmetrical dimensions of climate debt, unfair trade and financial agreements, military subjugation, vaccine apartheid, labour exploitation, and border securitisation.
It is impossible to think about borders outside the modern nation-state and its entanglements with empire, capitalism, race, caste, gender, sexuality, and ability. Borders are not even fixed lines demarcating territory. Bordering regimes are increasingly layered with drone surveillance, interception of migrant boats, and security controls far beyond states’ territorial limits. From Australia offshoring migrant detention around Oceania to Fortress Europe outsourcing surveillance and interdiction to the Sahel and Middle East, shifting cartographies demarcate our colonial present.
Perhaps most offensively, when colonial countries panic about ‘border crises’ they position themselves as victims. But the genocide, displacement, and movement of millions of people were unequally structured by colonialism for three centuries, with European settlers in the Americas and Oceania, the transatlantic slave trade from Africa, and imported indentured labourers from Asia. Empire, enslavement, and indentureship are the bedrock of global apartheid today, determining who can live where and under what conditions. Borders are structured to uphold this apartheid.
The freedom to stay and the freedom to move, which is to say no borders, is decolonial reparations and redistribution long due.
The Murang’a Factor in the Upcoming Presidential Elections
The Murang’a people are really yet to decide who they are going to vote for as a president. If they have, they are keeping the secret to themselves. Are the Murang’a people prepping themselves this time to vote for one of their own? Can Jimi Wanjigi re-ignite the Murang’a/Matiba popular passion among the GEMA community and re-influence it to vote in a different direction?
In the last quarter of 2021, I visited Murang’a County twice: In September, we were in Kandiri in Kigumo constituency. We had gone for a church fundraiser and were hosted by the Anglican Church of Kenya’s (ACK), Kahariro parish, Murang’a South diocese. A month later, I was back, this time to Ihi-gaini deep in Kangema constituency for a burial.
The church function attracted politicians: it had to; they know how to sniff such occasions and if not officially invited, they gate-crash them. Church functions, just like funerals, are perfect platforms for politicians to exhibit their presumed piousness, generosity and their closeness to the respective clergy and the bereaved family.
Well, the other reason they were there, is because they had been invited by the Church leadership. During the electioneering period, the Church is not shy to exploit the politicians’ ambitions: they “blackmail” them for money, because they can mobilise ready audiences for the competing politicians. The politicians on the other hand, are very ready to part with cash. This quid pro quo arrangement is usually an unstated agreement between the Church leadership and the politicians.
The church, which was being fund raised for, being in Kigumo constituency, the area MP Ruth Wangari Mwaniki, promptly showed up. Likewise, the area Member of the County Assembly (MCA) and of course several aspirants for the MP and MCA seats, also showed up.
Church and secular politics often sit cheek by jowl and so, on this day, local politics was the order of the day. I couldn’t have speculated on which side of the political divide Murang’a people were, until the young man Zack Kinuthia Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) for Sports, Culture and Heritage, took to the rostrum to speak.
A local boy and an Uhuru Kenyatta loyalist, he completely avoided mentioning his name and his “development track record” in central Kenya. Kinuthia has a habit of over-extolling President Uhuru’s virtues whenever and wherever he mounts any platform. By the time he was done speaking, I quickly deduced he was angling to unseat Wangari. I wasn’t wrong; five months later in February 2022, Kinuthia resigned his CAS position to vie for Kigumo on a Party of the National Unity (PNU) ticket.
He spoke briefly, feigned some meeting that was awaiting him elsewhere and left hurriedly, but not before giving his KSh50,000 donation. Apparently, I later learnt that he had been forewarned, ahead of time, that the people were not in a mood to listen to his panegyrics on President Uhuru, Jubilee Party, or anything associated to the two. Kinuthia couldn’t dare run on President Uhuru’s Jubilee Party. His patron-boss’s party is not wanted in Murang’a.
I spent the whole day in Kandiri, talking to people, young and old, men and women and by the time I was leaving, I was certain about one thing; The Murang’a folks didn’t want anything to do with President Uhuru. What I wasn’t sure of is, where their political sympathies lay.
I returned to Murang’a the following month, in the expansive Kangema – it is still huge – even after Mathioya was hived off from the larger Kangema constituency. Funerals provide a good barometer that captures peoples’ political sentiments and even though this burial was not attended by politicians – a few senior government officials were present though; political talk was very much on the peoples’ lips.
What I gathered from the crowd was that President Uhuru had destroyed their livelihood, remember many of the Nairobi city trading, hawking, big downtown real estate and restaurants are run and owned largely by Murang’a people. The famous Nyamakima trading area of downtown Nairobi has been run by Murang’a Kikuyus.
In 2018, their goods were confiscated and declared contrabrand by the government. Many of their businesses went under, this, despite the merchants not only, whole heartedly throwing their support to President Uhuru’s controversial re-election, but contributing handsomely to the presidential kitty. They couldn’t believe what was happening to them: “We voted for him to safeguard our businesses, instead, he destroyed them. So much for supporting him.”
We voted for him to safeguard our businesses, instead, he destroyed them. So much for supporting him
Last week, I attended a Murang’a County caucus group that was meeting somewhere in Gatundu, in Kiambu County. One of the clearest messages that I got from this group is that the GEMA vote in the August 9, 2022, presidential elections is certainly anti-Uhuru Kenyatta and not necessarily pro-William Ruto.
“The Murang’a people are really yet to decide, (if they have, they are keeping the secret to themselves) on who they are going to vote for as a president. And that’s why you see Uhuru is craftily courting us with all manner of promises, seductions and prophetic messages.” Two weeks ago, President Uhuru was in Murang’a attending an African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) church function in Kandara constituency.
At the church, the president yet again threatened to “tell you what’s in my heart and what I believe and why so.” These prophecy-laced threats by the President, to the GEMA nation, in which he has been threatening to show them the sign, have become the butt of crude jokes among Kikuyus.
Corollary, President Uhuru once again has plucked Polycarp Igathe away from his corporate perch as Equity Bank’s Chief Commercial Officer back to Nairobi’s tumultuous governor seat politics. The first time the bespectacled Igathe was thrown into the deep end of the Nairobi murky politics was in 2017, as Mike Sonko’s deputy governor. After six months, he threw in the towel, lamenting that Sonko couldn’t let him even breathe.
Uhuru has a tendency of (mis)using Murang’a people
“Igathe is from Wanjerere in Kigumo, Murang’a, but grew up in Ol Kalou, Nyandarua County,” one of the Mzees told me. “He’s not interested in politics; much less know how it’s played. I’ve spent time with him and confided in me as much. Uhuru has a tendency of (mis)using Murang’a people. President Uhuru wants to use Igathe to control Nairobi. The sad thing is that Igathe doesn’t have the guts to tell Uhuru the brutal fact: I’m really not interested in all these shenanigans, leave me alone. The president is hoping, once again, to hopefully placate the Murang’a people, by pretending to front Igathe. I foresee another terrible disaster ultimately befalling both Igathe and Uhuru.”
Be that as it may, what I got away with from this caucus, after an entire day’s deliberations, is that its keeping it presidential choice close to its chest. My attempts to goad some of the men and women present were fruitless.
Murang’a people like reminding everyone that it’s only they, who have yet to produce a president from the GEMA stable, despite being the wealthiest. Kiambu has produced two presidents from the same family, Nyeri one, President Mwai Kibaki, who died on April 22. The closest Murang’a came to giving the country a president was during Ken Matiba’s time in the 1990s. “But Matiba had suffered a debilitating stroke that incapacitated him,” said one of the mzees. “It was tragic, but there was nothing we could do.”
Murang’a people like reminding everyone that it’s only they, who have yet to produce a president from the GEMA stable, despite being the wealthiest
It is interesting to note that Jimi Wanjigi, the Safina party presidential flagbearer is from Murang’a County. His family hails from Wahundura, in Mathioya constituency. Him and Mwangi wa Iria, the Murang’a County governor are the other two Murang’a prominent persons who have tossed themselves into the presidential race. Wa Iria’s bid which was announced at the beginning of 2022, seems to have stagnated, while Jimi’s seems to be gathering storm.
Are the Murang’a people prepping themselves this time to vote for one of their own? Jimi’s campaign team has crafted a two-pronged strategy that it hopes will endear Kenyans to his presidency. One, a generational, paradigm shift, especially among the youth, targeting mostly post-secondary, tertiary college and university students.
“We believe this group of voters who are basically between the ages of 18–27 years and who comprise more than 65 per cent of total registered voters are the key to turning this election,” said one of his presidential campaign team members. “It matters most how you craft the political message to capture their attention.” So, branding his key message as itwika, it is meant to orchestrate a break from past electoral behaviour that is pegged on traditional ethnic voting patterns.
The other plunk of Jimi’s campaign theme is economic emancipation, quite pointedly as it talks directly to the GEMA nation, especially the Murang’a Kikuyus, who are reputed for their business acumen and entrepreneurial skills. “What Kikuyus cherish most,” said the team member “is someone who will create an enabling business environment and leave the Kikuyus to do their thing. You know, Kikuyus live off business, if you interfere with it, that’s the end of your friendship, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
Can Jimi re-ignite the Murang’a/Matiba popular passion among the GEMA community and re-influence it to vote in a different direction? As all the presidential candidates gear-up this week on who they will eventually pick as their running mates, the GEMA community once more shifts the spotlight on itself, as the most sought-after vote basket.
Both Raila Odinga and William Ruto coalitions – Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya and Kenya Kwanza Alliance – must seek to impress and woe Mt Kenya region by appointing a running mate from one of its ranks. If not, the coalitions fear losing the vote-rich area either to each other, or perhaps to a third party. Murang’a County, may as well, become the conundrum, with which the August 9, presidential race may yet to be unravelled and decided.
Op-Eds2 weeks ago
Tigray is Africa’s Ukraine: We Must Build Pan-African Solidarity
Op-Eds2 weeks ago
Road to 9/8: What Is at Stake?
Culture2 weeks ago
Back to the Future: The Infamous Dangerous, Ugly and Dark Days of “Nairoberry” Are Back
Op-Eds2 weeks ago
Suluhu Successfully Placating Factions. For Now.
Op-Eds2 weeks ago
UK-Rwanda Refugee Deal: A Stain on President Kagame
Culture1 week ago
Creolizing Rosa Luxemburg – Beyond, and Against, the Conventional
Videos2 weeks ago
Between Extremism and Reform: Coastal Kenya Violence
Cartoons2 weeks ago
The Search for the Running Mate Continues!