Arror and Kimwarer: Theft on a Grand Scale14 min read.
A footnote in a World Bank report dating back four decades inspired the mounting of fictitious dam construction projects in Elgeyo Marakwet to create avenues for the theft of billions of shillings in public funds.
In a November 1983 report of a World Bank appraisal mission to Kenya to look into the Kiambere hydroelectric dam on the Tana River, then under construction, there is a small footnote about other Kenyan rivers with hydroelectric potential. One of those identified is the Arror River, a major tributary of the Kerio River in the North Rift. Arror is a Marakwet word that means “the river that flows and makes a loud sound” and, in the last few years, the river has more than lived up to its billing. It is the site of one of two phantom dam projects (the other is on the Kerio River near Kimwarer village) that have been used to siphon billions of shillings from public coffers. Even for a government with a well-earned reputation for thievery, the Arror-Kimwarer scam is a breath-taking and unparalleled display of corruption.
The idea of building a dam on the Arror River dates back to 1986. According to the Nation, at the time, Arror Dam was projected to cost KSh414 million, it never materialised but due to lack of funds. Answering a question in Parliament in February 2009, then Assistant Minister for Water and Irrigation, Mwangi Kiunjuri said that the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) commissioned an Italian firm to carry out a feasibility study for “dams for irrigation and hydropower generation in Arror River Basin” that “indicated the suitability of the project to generate hydropower and develop a potential area of about 6,460 acres of irrigation”. According to Kiunjuri, the project would add 70 megawatts to the national grid. However, according to figures cited by Kiunjuri, in the 23 years since the project was first proposed, the cost of the project had increased 42-fold, ballooning to Kshs16.8 billion which, he said, exceeded the entire allocation to his ministry.
Kiunjuri was answering a question from then Member of Parliament for Marakwet West, Boaz Kipchumba Kaino, about “plans to construct two dams for irrigation and hydropower generation in Arror and Chesuman Locations in Marakwet District . . . which were factored in the 1995-1996 development plan”. According to Kaino, “many studies have been carried out on the same project. Each study has come up with the same 70 megawatts potential.”
In September 2009, Kaino again put Kiunjuri on the spot regarding the two dams. While reiterating his answer from seven months before, the latter added that there had been a request in 1994 to build 11 small dams in the Kerio Valley, and that “the only attempt that has ever been made in that area to have a dam for irrigation and production of hydropower was in 1986,” an apparent reference to the Arror dam.
Interestingly, in these exchanges, there was no mention of a dam at Kimwarer, only at Chesuman, nearly 90 kilometres to the north. The plan for a multipurpose dam in Kimwarer appears to have been mooted sometime after the Arror dam. It is listed in the National Water Masterplan 1992 as one of 28 multipurpose dams for hydropower, irrigation, domestic water supply and flood protection and was said to be at the pre-feasibility level in a 2003 report for the World Bank, alongside “Sererwa Dam located on the Arror river”.
A decade later, when the National Water Masterplan 1992 was updated to the National Water Master Plan 2030, Kimwarer was listed together with Arror as one of six multipurpose dam projects in the Rift Valley Catchment Area “designed for hydropower and irrigation. According to information from the KVDA, the hydropower component of the Kimwarer Dam would have “an installed capacity of 20 MW”. By 2012, a pre-feasibility study had apparently been completed. The KVDA published the Request for Proposal for the new Arror project (which included Kimwarer in this latest version) in December 2014.
In 2015, there was a new commitment to the dam project from the Italian government. Then prime minister Matteo Renzi visited Kenya in July. It was his second trip to the continent in two years. Several European countries, including Italy, were indeed keen on strengthening their relationships in Africa at that time. The main International challenges were fighting global terrorism and curbing migration. Renzi was among the initiators of the Khartoum and Rabat Processes. Launched in Rome the previous year, the Khartoum Process was a platform for political cooperation amongst the countries along the migration route between the Horn of Africa and Europe. The European Union launched the EU Trust Fund for Africa in November 2015 in Malta, a tool “to deliver an integrated and coordinated response to the diverse causes of instability, irregular migration and forced displacement”. Renzi travelled to Ethiopia and Kenya in this context. (Renzi’s meeting with president Uhuru Kenyatta made the headlines less for its content than for a picture shared by The Star in which Renzi seemed to be wearing a bulletproof vest under his blazer.)
“During the visit of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to Kenya, SACE, Intesa Sanpaolo and BNP Paribas announced the finalization of a €306 million loan to finance the Itare Dam project, built by CMC-Ravenna on behalf of the Kenyan National Treasury”, the SACE press office reported the day after the visit of the Italian Export Credit Agency. Intesa Sanpaolo is among the biggest Italian banks while CMC, the Italian construction company awarded the project, would feature prominently in the Kenyan dams saga. CMC signed the contract in May 2015. Itare was the very first dam awarded to the Italians in 2014 but, like the others, the project has never been concluded. It is listed in the Kenya Vision 2030 project, an ambitious development plan that has been ongoing since 2008.
After Itare, public invitations to tender were issued for Arror and Kimwarer, dam projects that by July 2015 appeared to present a unique opportunity for Italian companies to invest in. Italy has had an historical presence in Kenya since 1966 when the San Marco space launch platform was built near Malindi, a town now dubbed Little Italy. San Marco is still used by the Italian Space Agency to launch satellites into space. Italians soon followed, making investments along the Malindi coastline, exploiting Kenya’s natural resources and gaining privileged access to the country in the process. These long-lasting ties did not prevent the failure of the dam projects, however, which turned out to be a political game rather than a development opportunity.
Itare was the very first dam awarded to the Italians in 2014 but, like the others, the project has never been concluded.
Yet when cancelling the Kimwarer dam project in 2019, the government, through a statement from State House, claimed that the dam, which by then was to cost KSh22.2 billion, was “neither technically nor financially viable”. The statement further said that a technical committee “formed following the discovery of irregularities and improprieties” surrounding the Kimwarer and Arror Dams, had established that no current reliable feasibility study had been conducted on the former. “The only feasibility study carried out on a similar project twenty-eight (28) years ago had revealed a geological fault across the 800 acre project area, which would have negative structural effects on the proposed dam”. If a feasibility study had shown this in 1991, why then was the dam included in the National Water Master Plan formulated a year later and again when the plan was updated over a decade later? And what accounts for the over 68-fold increase in the cost of the Arror project to KSh28.3 billion in 2009 from an initial KSh414 million in 1986? In fact, according to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, “Kimwarer and Arror dams were planned for during Mwai Kibaki’s government and the contract awarded to an Iranian company, which estimated the entire cost at Sh5 billion, now the figure has escalated to KSh63 billion”.
To get to grips with the saga surrounding the construction of the controversial dams, in late 2020 Dauti Kahura travelled to Elgeyo Marakwet County in the greater Rift Valley region, where the twin dams were to be built. It is one of the 20 smallest of Kenya’s 47 counties, with an area of 3,050 square kilometres and a population of slightly less than half a million people, according to the 2019 population census.
Agriculture is the county’s economic mainstay. Potatoes are grown in the highlands while in the flat middle belt, maize plantations dot the landscape. Fruits such as avocadoes, mangoes, pawpaw and grains such as green grams, sorghum and millet do very well in the Kerio Valley. The topography, climate and availability of water make the area ideal for the production of these crops.
The county’s biggest town is the world-famous Iten, renowned for producing elite athletes and world-class marathoners. But other than a huge banner announcing “You Are Now Entering Iten Home of World Class Athletes”, there is little else about the bustling little rural town that tells you anything about its great sons and daughters.
Leaving Eldoret in neighbouring Uasin Gishu headed north-east to Iten, one’s attention is drawn to the rolling plateau of hectares upon hectares of maize plantations that disappear into the horizon. It is harvest time, the morning sun is out and the ready-to-be-harvested maize stalks are arranged like igloos. Massey Fergusson and John Deer tractors and combine harvesters dot the landscape, an indication that maize farming is serious business here.
Speeding across the undulating flatland one comes across scores of lithe, mostly male, runners tackling the 38 kilometres between Iten and Eldoret, a morning ritual for runners who hope to one day break world marathon records. They are joined by a band of European athletes who are persuaded that by running alongside the amateur athletes, they will perhaps crack the secret to the Kenyans’ success in long-distance races.
The county’s biggest town is the world-famous Iten, renowned for producing elite athletes and world-class marathoners.
From Iten to Kapsowar is a distance of 46 kilometres, and the higher you climb the cooler it gets. Many of the matatus here are Probox saloon vehicles and although people are not packed inside them like sardines, the cars are driven at terrific speeds by chatty, confident drivers. Nine kilometres from Cheptongei, the road starts winding upwards as you approach Kapsowar trading centre.
At Kapsowar, the boda boda (motorcycle taxi) rider Kahura hires to take him to the bottom of the valley, where the Arror dam was meant to be built, says that few outsiders have shown interest in going down into the area. The dam was to be built in Marakwet West constituency between Hossen and Kipsaiya, two facing ridges that share a border on the valley floor. The rider says that KVDA officials had come here to persuade the people to agree to the proposal to build the dam. According to a report in the Business Daily newspaper, the officials had promised that locals would be compensated with up to five times as much land as they would give up for the two dams. KSh6 billion was promised as compensation to the more than 900 families that would be affected, although to date that too is yet to materialize.
“No dam was built,” says Salome Chebet, a local resident. “It was a huge con from our leaders. The only thing they put up was a container office, which served as a liaison office.” It has since been carted away. “With hindsight, it’s a good thing the dam was never built,” she says. “We no longer desire it because it was all a political con game from people who we elected and who claim to represent our interests.” Chebet says KVDA officials and elected representatives, including Marakwet West Member of Parliament William Kisang, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Governor Alex Tunoi Tolgos, had frequented Kapsowar to sell the imaginary dam to the people. In parliament in 2016, the then Senate Majority Leader, Murkomen had declared that, “under the Arror and Kimwarer Projects, it is expected that over 10,000 acres of land in Kerio valley will be irrigated. Through the project, there will be generation of 80 megawatts of hydropower as an enabler to manufacturing, provision of clean water for 80,000 households and livestock; and support to the Arror and Kimwarer rivers catchments’ conservation initiatives”.
The boda boda rider agrees with Chebet. “It is true. For a while, there was a flurry of activities at Kapsowar. The KVDA officials accompanied by these politicians would descend here hoping to convince the people of the viability of the said dam. But these were thugs, ready to fill their pockets.”
Indeed, the KVDA held several barazas where they extolled the virtues of the dam; how it would generate electricity, how the local people living up the valley—that has rich soils for growing fruits such as avocadoes, mangoes and pawpaw—would benefit. Strangely, some of the people Kahura spoke to had not heard about the compensation arrangements. “There is one thing they never addressed, even when pressed to do so: the compensation issue. How would they compensate the people? How much money were we talking about here? Where was the land where they would relocate the people as the dam was ostensibly being built? How suitable and viable was it in comparison to our land?” says the rider.
“You can imagine our consternation when we learnt that some of the money meant for the dam went into buying beddings and towels for a hotel,” says an angry Chebet. She is referring to a February 2019 claim by the Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, that a company had been awarded a tender to supply “towels worth Sh20 million, while another delivered tiles and carpets”. According to his investigators, over a hundred companies were awarded tenders to supply items that had little to do with the actual dam construction, including food and wine worth KSh17 million, bedsheets and airline tickets worth Ksh1.5 million. The scale of the pay-outs to individuals and companies for the supply of goods and services for the fictitious construction is astounding, amounting to KSh21 billion according to reporting by Citizen TV.
“All these were white lies,” observes Arap Cherop who has lived in Kaptoiyoi since 1983. Residents of Kaptoiyoi village, which is situated on the floor of the valley between Hossen and Kipsaiya, would have been the most affected because they would all have had to be relocated. “But where were we being relocated to?” he asks.
“The KVDA officials, sometimes led by their boss David Kimaiyo, on several occasions came here to apparently give us the benefits of the coming dam, which according to them, included irrigation and water for domestic use, but we also asked them questions and they couldn’t answer many of them,” he says.
According to residents, no compensation was ever paid, despite the disruptions to planting seasons between 2018 and 2020. Those Kahura spoke to said that after news of the scandal broke, the barazas that the KVDA used to hold all dwindled away.
Over a hundred companies were awarded tenders to supply items that had little to do with the actual dam construction.
Asked about the prospects for justice, the rider replies, “You’ve seen and heard for yourself. Money was eaten by our leaders, helped by the dubious Italians. But that’s the nature of our politics—very ethicized. It is our leaders who have short-changed their own people, but you know what? We can’t be counted on to expose them. It would be akin to exposing our dirty linen in public, so we’ll suffer in silence and when the elections come in 2022, we’ll be swept in a wave of euphoria, be reminded that we’re all Kalenjin and that one of our sons will be gunning for the ultimate seat. Can we surely afford to embarrass him at that critical juncture, everything else notwithstanding?”
The following day Kahura visited the site of the proposed Kimwarer dam, another phantom project, now cancelled, without anything to show for it on the ground. According to the Kenyan prosecutors, the dam was never approved by the Treasury. In 2019, CMC signed a bankruptcy agreement with the Court of Ravenna, the city on the Romagna coastline where CMC is headquartered. The bankruptcy agreement is a repayment plan that aims to avoid the closure of the company and save the jobs of its 5,454 employees. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down CMC’s activities and consequently, the company’s income for the past two years has been lower than expected. According to its 2020 balance sheet, CMC went into arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce claiming damages of US$124 million from the KVDA, which was later replaced by the Kenyan State. “The arbitration is in the initial phase and the presumed verdict will be in either the last trimester of 2022 or the first trimester of 2023”, the balance sheet reads. According to a note shared with journalists from the CMC press office back in 2019, between 28th December 2017 and 9th November 2018 the KVDA made two advance payments for Arror and Kimwarer totalling over US$66 million.
Kimwarer is located in Keiyo South constituency, 60 kilometres from Eldoret town on the Eldama Ravine Road. Unlike the Eldoret-Iten Road, the Eldama Ravine Road is in dire need of repair. The gaping potholes and washed away sections of the road meant the trip took twice as long as the journey from Eldoret to Kapsowar, which is 84 kilometres. The road takes you to HZ centre, a trading centre named after the late “Total Man” and powerful politician Nicholas Biwott’s construction company, HZ Construction and Engineering Company Limited. If the dam had been built, it would have swallowed up the unassuming little centre.
KVDA made two advance payments for Arror and Kimwarer totalling over US$66 million.
As opposed to Kapsaiya area, Kimwarer is less settled, so fewer people would have been displaced. Still, it is a semi-forested area, full of vegetation and lush greenery. It holds the community grazing area, where the local people leave their cattle to graze freely for weeks on end.
The initial descent into the valley is not as steep as when heading to the site of the Arror dam and it is possible to drive part of the way through the wet tropical-like vegetation, leaving the car to cut through the dense vegetation accentuated by tall indigenous trees. The two guides accompanying Kahura from HZ centre tell him they grew up grazing cattle in the area and know the geography of Kimwarer like the backs of their hands.
Once on the valley floor, gazing up towards HZ centre and towards the Eldama Ravine Road, the guides say that had the dam been built, the entire area would have been shorn off vegetation and anybody living there would have had to leave. “But as it is, the only evidence that anything had happened here is drilling,” says one of them. Only the gaping holes remain. Other large pits had been dug for soil testing though nothing was ever heard of the results. Many are now covered by vegetation or filled by the local people to avoid their cows falling into them.
Silas Kiplagat from Tulwobei village, the homesteads nearest to the site of the proposed dam, says the people are no longer interested in it, “because as you’ve seen for yourself, this was one huge scam. Our politicians all took us for a ride. It was all so absurd. The former MP, Jackson Kiptanui, Senator Murkomen and Governor Tolgos all came here to persuade us to support the project.”
KVDA officials, “who we were told would be in charge of the project,” had visited. “They held a meeting at the HZ centre social hall and enumerated the advantages of the dam when finished,” says Kiplagat. Other government officials whom Kiplagat says showed up were National Land Commission officials who also met the locals at the social hall and told them they were seeking their participation, insofar as the dam’s project was concerned.
“Then all visits stopped suddenly,” says Vincent Kiprop, also from Tulwobei village, “and the ensuing scandal startled the people. How is it that your own leaders can conspire to rip you off?” Kiprop asks. The residents are very angry with their leaders. “But hey, what are our options?” he shrugs.
“The former MP, Jackson Kiptanui, Senator Murkomen and Governor Tolgos all came here to persuade us to support the project.”
Kahura returns to Iten town where he meets with Kiptarus Kipkoros, a local journalist who is well acquainted with the dams’ saga. “The ‘dams project’ was meant to finance the 2022 election campaigns in the north Rift Valley region and especially in Elgeyo Marakwet,” says Kipkoros. He blames the media for the misinformation and confusion surrounding the two dams. “KVDA MD David Kimosop would hire a special helicopter to ferry journalists from Nairobi to the supposed dam sites. But you and I know their intention was not to establish whether the sites existed, report on the scandal or even investigate the story — not as long as the brown envelopes were aplenty.”
Kipkoros alleges that Kimosop would take the journalists on an aerial tour of Elgeyo Marakwet County, circle the areas around the two dams then return to Eldoret for a sumptuous meal before sending them back to Wilson Airport each with a brown envelope in hand. “Therefore, the politicians [read the MP, Senator and Governor] and the journalists helped conceal the true extent of the mega-dams scandal.” Journalists became part of the people who helped siphon the state’s money, says Kipkoros.
Before the scandal broke, weekends in Elgeyo Marakwet County were awash with choppers flying into the area. “Here in Iten they would drop at St Patrick Iten School grounds, at the market field, or anywhere where there is a landing field,” says Kipkoros. “Afterwards, the whizzing of the choppers in the air over the weekends suddenly ceased. It is very painful to watch elected leaders robbing their own people,” says the journalist. “The politicians used the money for self-aggrandisement,” he says, adding that
The journalist claims that the politicians and top KVDA officials used the cash to fund extravagant lifestyles, which astonished the people of the small, poor county of Elgeyo Marakwet. “The politicians inundated the county with choppers loaded with money every weekend, dishing it out to their supporters and at hurriedly set-up fundraisers.”
Before the scandal broke, weekends in Elgeyo Marakwet County were awash with choppers flying into the area.
Longrock Engineering Limited was named as one of the companies that allegedly received part of the money for the dams. The company was allegedly paid KSh6.2 million to supply furniture and provide transport services. “Now, Longrock is a corruption of the name Kaplongorok, a family name that hails from Kipsait in Kapsowar,” said Kipkoros. According to an investigation published by Africa Uncensored, there are five companies with “Longrock” in their names that were suppliers for the construction of the dams, all of whose directors or shareholders are directly linked to the KVDA and more specifically to board member Dinah Chelanga. “You can see for yourself the extent to which the money was distributed to friends, loyal supporters and relatives,” says Kipkoros.
The journalist says the politicians and the KVDA officials bought their girlfriends and wives brand new Toyota sedans and SUVS. “Some even acquired new wives on account of that money.”
However, even the journalist sees little prospect for real justice and accountability in the ongoing prosecutions over the scams. “The war on corruption will not be won by engaging in politics of deceit and subterfuge,” he says. What Uhuru is doing is not fighting corruption, but fighting [Deputy President William] Ruto and that’s why the people will just be angry for a while but quickly revert to type — that is ethnic politics.”
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Nigeria: A Messiah Will Not Fix Country’s Problems
In Nigeria’s recent election cycle, many citizens looked to Peter Obi for change. But the country needs people-led social transformation, not saviors.
On February 25, Nigerians once again took to the polls with a determination that their votes could change the fate of a country in deep despair. For the seventh time since a civilian dispensation began in 1999, Nigerians hoped that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would conduct a free, fair, and credible election. This hope was reinvigorated by the emergence of technology that would ensure, purportedly, a transparent process. Yet, once again, voters had their dreams crushed with an election marred by violence, ballot box snatching, forged results and, of course, voter intimidation and buying. In the days that followed, despite mounting evidence of irregularities and international outcry, INEC declared Bola Ahmed Tinubu, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the winner of the presidential poll. The continuation of a gerontocratic oligarchy was solidified.
Although media attention focused on a young class of voters and the uniqueness of this historical moment, a deeper analysis is necessary. If nothing else, this election provided an opportunity to examine the shifting landscape of Nigeria’s elite electoral politics, and the increasingly complex voting patterns of citizens, while understanding these voters are increasingly a minority—less than 30 percent of the registered voters (about one-tenth of the population) cast their vote.
The dizzying rise of Peter Obi as a “third force” candidate over the last nine months was largely due to a movement of emergent and middle-class youth, the so-called “Obidients,” who used technology to galvanize a youthful base to push forward their candidate. That the Obidient movement was formed, ironically, off the back of the EndSARS movement, is in many ways a direct contradiction. The generation that was “leaderless” now suddenly had a leader. The rate at which young people chose this candidate still gives me whiplash. But there was no shaking their convictions. Obi was their candidate, and no one could shake their belief that a new Nigeria would be formed under his presidency, despite the evidence that he was directly endorsed by the same ruling class that has led to the country’s demise.
Obi is not a revolutionary, a social welfarist, nor even pro labor, but he became the savior many youth were looking for to “rescue” Nigeria. Ironically, the millions of youth that fought the EndSARS battle, and named themselves the leaderless soro soke (“speak up” in Yoruba) generation, did not seek elective office themselves. Rather, many put their eggs in Obi’s basket in supporting an older, veteran politician whose clean cut and soft demeanor led to his near deification. Other EndSARS activists, including Omoyele Sowore, were mocked for running in the election and were seen as not experienced enough for the job. In the end Sowore performed abysmally at the polls, despite his demonstrated commitment to Nigerian youth and human rights record and involvement in the EndSARS protests (Sowore’s African Action Congress polled only 14,608 votes, faring worse than in the 2019 election).
This absolute faith in Obi was demonstrated when his followers patiently waited for five days after the election to hear from him. Instead of sending them into the streets, he advised them to wait for him to challenge the electoral irregularities in the courts. Why did a leaderless generation need a hero?
The contradictions in the EndSARS ideology and the Obidient campaign will be tested in the years ahead. After the Lekki massacre on October 20, 2020 brought the massive street protests of the EndSARS movement to an abrupt halt, many of the sites of protests shut down completely and groups that were loosely organized dismantled into relative silence for almost two years. In fact, there was little indication that EndSARS would evolve into a mass political movement until Peter Obi emerged on the scene in May 2022. The first- and second anniversaries of the Lekki massacre were marked by smaller protests in Lagos and a few other cities, which paled in comparison to the numbers at the 2020 protests. Still, efforts to free many of the prisoners arrested during EndSARS are proving difficult, with some protesters and victims still in jail today. There was no direction, no cohesiveness, and no willingness to move forward at that point. But in May 2022, seemingly out of nowhere, things began to shift. A candidate emerged that many EndSARS protesters seemed to think would be the savior.
Understanding the youth divide
While often lumped into a sum, the category of “youth” is not a single class of people. When Obi was said to carry the youth vote he actually only carried the vote of a particular category of young people, an emergent middle and professional class, who were also some of the most vocal in the EndSARS movement. However, if we are to use the discredited election geography as a proxy for representation, it is clear that this demographic is both well defined and narrow. Major urban areas like Lagos and Abuja pulled towards Obi, as did a few Eastern states. The North Central states including Plateau and Benue asserted their own identity by aligning with Obi, perhaps in a rejection of the Northern Muslim tickets of the Peoples Democratic Party (with whom Atiku Abubaker ran) and the APC.
The 2023 election also forces us to re-examine the dynamics of class, ethnic and religious divides and the deepening malaise of the poor and their disengagement with politics. What is clear from this election, like many before, is that Nigeria has yet to come of age as a democracy; indeed, the conditions for democracy simply do not exist. It is also quite evident that the Nigerian elite are adept at changing the political game to suit the mood of the Nigerian people. Electoral malpractices have shifted over time in response to the increasing pressure of civil society for accountable elections. Strong civil society advocacy from organizations focused on accountability and transparency in government have pushed against electoral practices. While these practices continue, there are significant shifts from previous elections where vote buying was brazen. However, it begs the historical questions: has Nigeria ever had a truly free and fair election, and is the process with which democracy is regenerated through the ballot the path for emancipatory politics? These questions become more relevant as the numbers of voters continue to dwindle, with the 2023 election having the lowest turnout in Nigeria’s electoral history, despite the social media propaganda around the youth vote and the turning tide of discontent that was predicted to shape the election.
Lessons from history
The fact that young people were surprised by the events on February 25 may be indicative of youthful exuberance or a startling lack of knowledge of history. The idea that a ruling class, who had brought the EndSARS struggle to a bloody end, would somehow deliver a free and fair election, needs more critical scrutiny. For those that remember the history of the June 12, 1993 elections—annulled after the popular rise of MKO Abiola—the election is no surprise. But for young people deprived of history education, which has been removed from Nigeria’s curriculum for the past 30 years, the knowledge may be limited. When a young person says they have never seen an election like this, they also cannot be faulted, as many young voters were voting for the first time. Given that many youth seem to underestimate the long history of elections and electoral fraud, the question of intergenerational knowledge and of a public history that seems to be absent from electoral discourse cannot be ignored. It is also hard to fault young voters, in a land where there is no hope, and whatever hope is sought after can be found in the marketplace.
Many of the young organizers were adept at reading their constituencies and mobilizing their bases, but some of the elephants in the room were ignored. One of these elephants, of course, was the deep geographic and ethno-religious and class divisions between the North and the South. This is evident in the voting patterns in the North West and North East where Obi’s campaign did not make a dent. Though Obi ran with a vice president from the North, the majority of votes in Northern zones were divided between PDP, APC and New Nigeria People’s Party while two of the North Central states, Plateau and Nasarawa, went to Obi’s Labor party. Kano, the largest voting population in the country went to Rabiu Kwankwaso’s NNPP, an outlier who was ignored to the peril of opposition parties (Kwankwaso was the former governor of Kano).
Obi’s campaign also focused on the emergent middle class youth, as well as appealing to religious sentiments through churches on a Christian ticket and ethnic sentiments appealing to his Ibo base in the South East, where he swept states with more than 90 percent of the vote. The North is largely made up of the rural poor with poverty rates as high as 87 percent and literacy rates among young women in Zamfara state as low as 16 percent. Tracking Obi’s victories, most of the states where he won had lower poverty rates and higher literacy rates; states like Delta and Lagos have the lowest poverty counts in the country. While Obi used poverty statistics to bolster his campaign, his proposed austerity measures and cuts in government spending do not align with the massive government investments that would be needed to lift Nigerians out of poverty. While the jury is still out on the reasons for low voter turnout, deepening poverty and the limited access to cash invariably impacted poor voters.
Historically, Nigeria’s presidency has swung between the North and the South, between Muslims and Christians, and this delicate balance was disrupted on all sides. In 2013, an alliance between the Southern Action Congress (AC), the Northern All Nigeria’s People’s Party (ANPP), and Congressive People’s Alliance (CPC) to produce the Action People’s Congress (APC) was able to remove the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who had dominated the political scene. Another important historical note is that of the legacy of Biafra that lives on, as an Igbo man has never taken the helm of the Presidency since the Civil War. While Obi ran on the promise of a united youth vote, the lingering ethnic and religious sentiments demonstrate the need for his campaign to have created a stronger alliance with the North and the rural and urban poor.
The failure of the youth vote is also a failure of the left
The other factor that we must examine is the failure of the left to articulate and bring into public critique the neoliberal model that all the candidates fully endorsed. Many young Nigerians believe if Nigeria works, it will work for everyone, and that “good governance” is the answer to the myriad problems the country faces. The politics of disorder and the intentionality of chaos are often overlooked in favor of the “corrupt leader” indictment. The left was divided between the Labor Party, whose presidential flag bearer ran on a neoliberal rather than pro worker or socialist platform, and the African Action Congress, who ran on a socialist manifesto, but failed to capture the imaginations of young people or win them over to socialist politics and ideology. In seeking to disrupt the two party power block, young Nigerians took less notice of the lack of difference between the three front running parties, and chose to select the lesser of three evils, based on credentials and the idea that Obi was “the best man for the job.” In fact, the Nigerian youth on the campaign trail emphasized experience in government as a criteria for a good candidate, over and above fresh ideas.
The left also failed to garner the EndSARS movement and channel it into a political force. The emergent youth middle class, not the workers and the working poor, continued to carry the message of liberal rather than revolutionary politics. Unfortunately, just as the gunning down of Nigerian protesters caught young people off guard in October 2020, so too the massive rigging of this election. However, there is no cohesive movement to fight the fraud of this election. The partisan protests and separate court cases by the Labor Party and PDP, demonstrate that the disgruntled candidates are fighting for themselves, rather than as a single voice to call out electoral fraud and the rerun of the election. The fact that there is acceptance of the National Assembly election outcomes and not the presidential election, points to the seeking of selective justice, which may eventually result in the complete disenfranchisement of the Nigerian people.
At this time we must seek answers to our current dilemma within history, the history that we so often want to jettison for the euphoria or overwhelming devastation of the moment. The question for the youth will now be, which way forward? Will we continue to rely on the old guard, the gerontocratic oligarchy that has terrorized Nigerians under the guise of different political parties for the past 24 years? Or will we drop all expectations and pursue the revolution that is sorely needed? Will young people once again rise to be a revolutionary vanguard that works with millions of working poor to form a truly pro-people, pro-poor party that has ordinary Nigerians as actual participants in a virbrant democracy from the local to the federal levels, not just during election time but every day? Will the middle class Nigerian youth be willing to commit class suicide to fight alongside the poor to smash the existing oligarchy and gerontocracy and snatch our collective destiny back?
It is a time for truth telling, for examining our own shortcomings. As young people, as the left, and as civil society, we have relied too long on the oppressors for our own liberation.
This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site once a week.
Africa in the New World Disorder
The war in Ukraine indicates a new world disorder, where great powers fight for primacy and Africa continues to be exploited.
There are some of us in Africa who believe that we should not invest any serious thinking in the war in Ukraine as it is one of the “European tribal wars.” The logic of that belief is that in Africa we have too many of our own problems to invest energy and effort in European problems. The trouble of being African in the present world order, however, is that all problems and wars end up African in effect if not in form. In the sense in which one who knows it feels it, every war in the world is an African war because Africans have, for the longest time, felt and known wars that are not of their creation. The African condition itself can be understood as a daily experience of war.
Over centuries Africa has been structured and positioned to be on the receiving end of all world problems. As such, Africa is not only the storied cradle of mankind, but also the cemetery of the human condition where every human and world problem comes to kill and to die as well. The worst of the human condition and human experiences tend to find final expression in Africa. It is for that reason that Julius Nyerere once opined that the Devil’s Headquarters must be in Africa because everything that might go wrong actually goes wrong in the continent.As the world tiptoes precariously from the COVID-19 pandemic, at the same time it seems to be tottering irreversibly towards a nuclear World War III. The countries of the world that have the power and the privilege to stop the war pretend to be unable to do so. Even some powerful and privileged Western thinkers are beating the drums of war. For instance, Slavoj Zizek, considered “the most dangerous philosopher in the West,” wrote for The Guardian in June 2022 to say: “pacifism is the wrong response to the war in Ukraine,” and “the least we owe Ukraine is full support, and to do that we need a stronger NATO.” Western philosophers, not just soldiers and their generals, are demanding stronger armies and bigger weapons to wage bigger wars. In Ukraine, the conflict is proving too important to be left to the soldiers, the generals and the politicians. In that assertion Zizek speaks from the Euro-American political and military ego, whose fantasy is a humiliating total defeat of Russia in Ukraine. Zizek, the “dangerous philosopher” takes his place as a spokesperson for war and large-scale violence, agitating from a comfortable university office far away from the horrors of Bakhmut.
United States President, Joe Biden, spoke from the same egopolitics of war before the Business Roundtable CEO Quarterly Meeting on March 21 last year: “And now is a time when things are shifting… there’s going to be a new world order out there, and we’ve got to lead it. And we’ve got to unite the rest of the free world in doing it.” Clearly, an “end of history” fantasy of another unipolar world led by the US and its NATO allies has possessed Western powers that are prepared to pump money, weapons and de-uniformed soldiers into Ukraine to support the besieged country to the “last Ukrainian.” During a surprise visit to Kyiv on the eve of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden hawkishly said the US will support Ukraine in fighting “as long as it takes,” dismissing diplomatic alternatives. Suggestions for a negotiated settlement in Ukraine that have come from influential figures, such as Henry Kissinger on the right and Noam Chomsky on the left, have been dismissed with the sleight of the left hand, and this is as Ukraine is literally being bombed to dust. African countries that have for years been theaters of colonial invasions, proxy wars, sponsored military coups, and regime changes can only see themselves in Ukraine. What Ukraine is going through is a typical African experience taking place in Europe and the first victims are Europeans this time.
Being Africans in Africa, at the least, should equip us with the eyes to see the war in Ukraine for what it is, a war driven by a Euro-American will to power, a spirited desire for world dominion against the Russian fear of NATO encirclement and containment, and nostalgia about a great Soviet empire. It is a war of desires and fears from which the belligerents will not back off. The envisaged “new world order” can only be another “world disorder” for an Africa that has for so long been in the periphery of economic, political, and military world affairs.
Destined for war: The Thucydides trap
Well before the war, the Singaporean diplomat and scholar Kishore Mahbubani described how the “world has turned a corner” and why “the West has lost it” in trying to maintain its economic and political dominion by any means necessary and some means unnecessary. Power is shifting under the feet of a young and fragile Euro-American empire that will not lose power peacefully, hence the spirited desire to force another unipolar world without China and Russia as powers. Taiwan and Ukraine are the chosen sites where the Euro-American establishment is prepared to militarily confront its threatening rivals. That “from AD 1 to 1820, the two largest economies were always those of China and India” and that “only in that period did Europe take off followed by America” is little understood. That the Euro-American empire has not been the first and it will not be the last empire is little understood by the champions of the “new world order” that Francis Fukuyama, in 1989, mistakenly declared as “the end of history and the last man;” a world ruled by the West, led by the US and its European allies had arrived and was here to stay in Fukuyama’s enchanting prophecy. Ensuing history, 9/11 amongst other catastrophic events, and the present war in Ukraine, were to prove Fukuyama’s dream a horrific nightmare. Mahbubani predicts that the short-lived rise and power of the Euro-American Empire has “come to a natural end, and that is happening now.” It seems to be happening expensively if the costs in human life, to the climate and in big dollars are to be counted.
In the struggle of major world powers for dominion of the globe Ukraine is reduced to a burnt offering. While, on the one hand, we have a terrified Euro-American empire fearing a humiliating return to oblivion and powerlessness, on the other hand we have the reality of an angry China and Russia, carrying the burden of many decades of geopolitical humiliation. Such corners of the world as Africa become the proverbial grass that suffers when elephants fight. The scramble to reduce Africa to a sphere of influence for this and that power is a spectacle to behold and the very definition of the new world disorder; a damaged and asymmetrical shape of the world where the weaker other is dispensable and disposable.
In its form and content, this new world disorder is ghastly to ponder, not only for Africa, but also for the rest of the world. Graham Allison pondered it in 2015 and came up with the alarming observation that “war between the US and China is more likely than recognised at the moment” because the two powerful countries have fallen into the Thucydides Trap. The ancient Greek historian, Thucydides, described the trap when he narrated how avoiding war becomes next to impossible when a ruling power is confronted by a rival rising power that threatens its dominion. Thucydides witnessed how the growing power and prosperity of Athens threatened Sparta in ancient Greece, driving the two powers to war. The political and historical climate between China and the US captures the charged political temperatures that punctuated the relations between an entitled and proud Sparta confronted with the growth and anger of a frightening Athens. The proverbial chips were down.
For the US and China to escape the Thucydides Trap that is luring both superpowers to war, “tremendous effort” is required of both parties and their allies. The effort is mainly in mustering the emotional stamina to see and to know that the world is going to be a shared place where there must never be one center of power; that political, economic and military diversity is natural, and the world must be a decolonial pentecostal place where those of different identities, and competing interests can share power and space, is the beginning of the political wisdom that can guarantee peace. President Xi Jinping of China seems to have read Allison’s warning about the Thucydides Trap that envelops China and the US because on a visit to Seattle he was recorded saying: “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides Trap in the world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might make such traps for themselves.” The world is sinking deeper into new disorder and violence because rival powers cannot resist the Thucydides Trap and keep repeating “strategic miscalculations” based on their will to power and desire for global dominion.
The problem with China (the Athens of our present case) that troubles the US as the Sparta of the moment is that, as Allison observes, “China wants to be China and accepted as such—not as an honorary member of the West.” The problem with world powers, past and present, seems to be that they cannot live with difference. In fact, political, economic and cultural differences are quickly turned from competition to conflict, from opposition to total enmity. How to translate antagonism to agonism, and to move from being enemies to being respectful adversaries that can exist among each other in a conflictual but shared world is a small lesson that seems to elude big powers, whose egopolitics drives their geopolitics into a kind of militarized lunacy. One would be forgiven, for instance, to think that playground toys are being spoken of when presidents of powerful countries talk about monstrous weapons to be deployed in Ukraine. Observing from Africa one can hazard the view that big powers might be small and slow learners, after all. The death-drive of the superpowers is perpetuated by the desire to force other countries, including other powers, to be “more like us” when they are formidably determined to be themselves. To break out of the Thucydides Trap and avoid war, for instance, the US has to generate and sustain enough emotional stamina to live with the strong truth that China is a 5,000-year-old civilization with close to 1.5 billion people and in its recent rise is only returning to glory and not coming from the blue sky. And that the world has to be shared with China and other powers, and countries. China, and allies, would also not have learnt well from many years of decline if they dreamt and worked for a world under their sole dominion.
Any fantasy of one world ruled from one mighty center of power is exactly that, a fantasy that might be pursued at the dear cost of a World War. Away from that fantasy, the future world will be politically pentecostal, not a paradise but a perpetually in the making and incomplete world where human, national, cultural, political and religious differences will be normal. From Africa that future world is thinkable and world powers should be investing thought and action in that and not in new monstrous weapons and military might.
Africa in the new world disorder
The symptoms are spectacular and everywhere to be seen. It can be the Namibian President, Hage Geingob, on live television having to shout at a German politician, Norbet Lammert, for complaining about the growing Chinese population in Namibia. Geingob asks why Germans land in Namibia on a “red carpet” and do “what they want” but it becomes a huge problem for the West when the Chinese are seen in Namibia. That Namibia should not be reduced into a theater of contestation between the West and China because it is a sovereign country was Geingob’s plea to the German politician. It can be President Emmanuel Macron of France, in May 2021, asking President Paul Kagame of Rwanda for forgiveness for France’s role in the genocide of 1994—the bottom line being that African conflicts and genocides bear European footprints and fingerprints. Africa is reduced to the West’s crime scene, from slavery to colonialism and from colonialism to present coloniality.
Coloniality is brought to life with, for instance, the US Republican lawmakers launching a bill “opposing the Republic of South Africa’s hosting of military exercises with the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and calling on the Biden administration to conduct a thorough review of the US-South Africa relationship.” Africa as an object that does not have the agency to act for itself but is acted upon in the new world disorder, is real. It is Africa as a child in the world system that must be protected from other relationships and that must be told who to relate with and who not to relate with. It is also Africa as an owned thing that must be protected from rival owners. Behind the myth of African independence and liberation is the reality of Africa as a “sphere of influence,” about which world powers are still scrambling for control and ownership, including Russia and China. When in January 2018, Donald Trump referred to African countries as “all these shithole countries,” he meant that Africa still metaphorized the toilet of the world order, where disposable waste and dispensable people were to be found. Looking at the world disorder from Africa is a troubling view from the toilet of world affairs.
Looking at the world disorder from Africa with African eyes and sensibility makes it obvious that it is Africa that should be against war and for a decolonial, multipolar world order where differences are legitimated, not criminalized; where economic competition, political opposition, and rivalry are democratized from antagonism to agonism; and where political opponents are adversaries that are not necessarily blood enemies that must work on eliminating each other to the “last man.” Such a world order may be liberating in that both fears and desires of nations may play out in a political climate where might is not necessarily right. From long experiences of being the dominated and exploited other of the world, Africa should expectedly be the first to demand such a world.
World powers need to be persuaded or to pressure themselves to understand what Mahbubani prescribes as a future world order that is against war, and liberating in that it is minimalist, multilateral, and Machiavellian. Minimalist, in that major countries should minimize thinking and act like other countries are minors that should be changed into their own image. Multilateral in the sense that world institutions, such as the United Nations, must be pentecostal sites where differences, fears and desires of all countries are moderated and democratized. Machiavellian in that world powers, no matter how mighty they believe they are, must adapt to the change to the order of things and live with the truth that they will not enjoy world dominion alone, in perpetuity. The world must be a shared place that naturalizes and normalizes political, economic, cultural, and human diversity.
This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site once a week.
Understanding the Crisis in Northern Kenya
The violence plaguing the North Rift region in Kenya is complex, as it is caused by a multiplicity of factors
On the 14th of February 2023, Kenya held a national prayer day in accordance with our government’s habit of holding ‘prayers’ when certain stressors reach an unbearable level on a national scale. Currently, there are many factors triggering national stressors, and one of them is a complex security issue loosely termed “banditry”, for which our government has no viable solution. So, we pray, declaring war on our people, instead of reflecting on and addressing the root causes of the crisis.
Over the years, these theatrics, which reflect the inadequacy of the government’s policies in dealing with our challenges, have occurred in different forms including ‘prayer breakfasts’, ‘national prayers’, ‘crusades’, and other forms of supplication. And while these functions are met with a wide spectrum of reactions ranging from approval to derision, depending on people’s spiritual or political leanings, it is crucial for us as citizens to realize that as much as these may be expressions of faith at our leaders’ personal level, at the political level they are basically ‘time-outs’ or pressure release valves. Where one has a strategy, time-outs create room for the implementation of plan ‘B’ or ‘C’. However, in the absence of a strategy, time-outs are called in the vain hope that the adversary or adversity at hand will somehow lose momentum.
There is more to the “banditry” phenomenon than meets the eye
There have been violent conflicts of many kinds in northern Kenya for many decades, some driven by terrorism, ethnic animosity, resource conflict, cattle rustling and other factors. Since 2017, however, many Kenyans have had greater awareness of the fact that the violence in northern Kenya isn’t just mere disorder; people have come to terms that there are definite geographical, economic and social patterns to, and causes of, the violence. The ongoing sporadic skirmishes of violence and cattle rustling in the North Rift area are exacerbating the difficulties that the communities there are already facing as a result of a debilitating drought. Most tragically, the violence in the region has led to the death of 16 security personnel and over 100 civilians in 6 months, a period largely overlapping with the first 5 months of H.E. President William Ruto’s time as the president. Sadly, over the years, Kenya had become largely inured to this slow-burning war due to its long duration and the boorish mentality that made the majority of us see certain parts of the country and pastoralists as somewhat ‘backward’ or ‘lesser’ beings. The most harmful effect of this attitude has been the inability or unwillingness of Kenyans to understand the root of this problem.
Things came to a head on the 11th of February 2023 when a group of security personnel on patrol were ambushed on the Lodwar-Kitale highway resulting in the death of 3 officers and the loss of guns, ammunition and patrol vehicles. This daylight highway attack was a huge affront to the authorities, resulting in instant opprobrium from citizens all over the country who wonder why our much-vaunted security agencies still couldn’t subdue these “bandits” after all these years.
Such attacks were turning into exasperating feelings of déjà vu because we see the same places, roughly the same seasonal conditions, the same kind of weapons, and even the same meaningless terminology and knee-jerk government reactions time and again. In every other part of Kenya, when laws are broken, they are investigated and addressed all along the chain from perpetrators, enablers, participants and beneficiaries. Most of the time, cases are brought to logical conclusions, but not in this case. Why?
Insights into the depth of this particular problem came from a very knowledgeable (if unexpected) source. The Governor of Trans-Nzoia County, Mr George Natembeya, came out at the National Prayer Day with a hard-hitting statement, asking the President not to let people around him “shield” him from the realities on the ground concerning the “banditry” in the North Rift areas. He went on to detail the woes of the security personnel working in the area, claiming that they were being sent into a veritable war zone without adequate allowances, equipment and even food supplies. I was personally taken aback because the previous operation took place when Mr Natembeya was the Rift Valley Regional Coordinator (RC), a position he held until last year when he resigned to run for a political office. Ironically, the office of RC is a very senior position in the executive arm of the Kenya Government that placed Mr Natembeya in direct charge of deploying the security personnel who suffered the same deplorable working conditions he was now lamenting about. In a show of cognitive dissonance that is so typical of Kenyans, the Governor was widely praised for his ‘straight talk’ and honesty in ‘speaking truth to power’. Obviously buoyed by this newfound adulation, he went on to hold a press conference where he robustly advocated military involvement in the operation against bandits, firmly stating that the civilian security apparatus (where he spent the majority of his career before moving into politics) is inadequate to protect Kenyans. This advocacy was worrisome because the use of the loose term ‘banditry’ betrays a lack of knowledge of the identity or objectives of the adversaries.
The first major cause for alarm was the haughty ‘pre-devolution’ tone with which Mr Natembeya pronounced himself on the deployment of the military. He proceeded to even give recommendations on the orders that need to be issued, stating that they should be instructed to “decimate” the bandits. This is a startlingly cavalier term when used by a senior public servant in reference to citizens who haven’t been positively identified in any way. It is a term that could be useful in the primitive theatre of war, where opponents are positively identified by uniforms, positions or other means, but sustainable solutions to the security problems in the North Rift region invariably require more sophisticated approaches that would ensure that innocent citizens are protected and not “decimated” alongside. It would have been much easier for us ‘spectators’ to dismiss these statements as hot air emitted by someone who failed in his earlier responsibilities, but we lost that option when the government moved with speed to implement these external ‘instructions’.
The main cause of a complex issue
The violence plaguing the North Rift region in Kenya is complex, as it is caused by a multiplicity of factors. If it was simple, it would have been solved a long time ago through any of the heavy-handed responses deployed by successive governments against it. My work as a conservationist has given me unique insights into one aspect of it which seems to have been ignored by many.
Northern Kenya has a roughly 5-year drought cycle, and 2017 was a drought year. As a consequence, pastoralists moved south into Laikipia county in search of pasture. They invaded private ranches and provoked an inevitable state response, which resulted in the death of many ranchers, pastoralists, security personnel, and hundreds of livestock.
I headed a team of consultants tasked by an indigenous rights NGO to study Marsabit, Isiolo, Laikipia, and Samburu counties in a research project aimed at uncovering the dynamics and drivers of the southward transhumance and the resultant conflicts. We collected data from hundreds of respondents, including ranchers, pastoralists, government personnel and NGO practitioners. Three things stood out in our findings. The first was the sheer distances covered by the pastoralists with their animals, and the second was the fact that almost all the (government-designated) livestock movement routes have been blocked by private landowners. The most compelling finding, however, was that a vast majority of the pastoralists were from homelands that were now ‘wildlife conservancies’ controlled by the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT),( -a conservation NGO. The pastoralists had lost access to their dry-season grazing areas.
After completing our fieldwork and analysis, we planned and held a validation workshop in Nanyuki on the 14th of June 2017. The findings of our report presented at the workshop resonated well with the community members who attended the workshop, some of whom provided us with further insights into the crisis. Our views on NRT were also ‘validated’ by a dramatic moment when my presentation was interrupted by their Laikipia county director, Mr Richard Kasoo, who literally screamed at me to stop vilifying NRT and had to be ejected from the room by the elders present. The top NRT management later called a more cordial meeting at a Nanyuki hotel, asking me as the team leader to expunge certain items from the report, which they felt portrayed them in a ‘negative light’. Much to their chagrin, I declined to do so, out of respect for my team and our respondents. This entire experience was a cameo of what ails us in this arena. Man-made stressors are routinely met with deafening silence and frantic inactivity until we invariably take ‘ruthless’ steps to ‘decimate’ the people we should have engaged before the fighting broke out. As such, those of us who observed the violent resource conflict in 2017 know that it wasn’t brought to an end by any human intervention. The drought ended, the rains came, and people who were fighting simply went back home.
These findings and my views have since been shared with several senior state officials and several non-state actors as well (including the protagonists), but have been invariably met with deafening silence and frantic inactivity. This is not to suggest that this is the only set of causes because the bloodletting certainly predates wildlife conservancies, which only started around 2004. Ethnic animosities that exist in this and other parts of Kenya are realities that we must factor in. The displacement and loss of access to resources also eliminated a lot of the geographical space that typically limited contact and conflict between some communities, resulting in more frequent flare-ups. However, the negative impact of conservation practices on the communities’ ways of life is definitely one of the easier drivers to deal with, so it is difficult to imagine that anyone is dealing with the more intractable and socio-politically fractious ones.
Most notably, the alacrity with which government authorities have embraced the advice of a former RC with a less-than-stellar record to handle a crisis is a worrying indication of not having a plan. One doesn’t need to be an expert to know that militaries aren’t trained to investigate, arrest or prosecute, so we could be courting numerous extrajudicial killings. The Interior Minister speaking in January, added his voice to the frightening miasma, saying that the Government will be ‘ruthless and brutal’ in this operation. We don’t seem to have had a plan for what we are doing now, so it cannot be easy to envision any plan for managing the inevitable fallout of such violence either. We are at war with ourselves in pitch darkness, struggling to finish ‘the other’ before dawn because the light of day might reveal who we really are.
This article was first published by The Pan African Review.
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