Kongomano la Mageuzi: A Luta Continua!7 min read.
We must provoke a new political awakening, imagine a new politics, a new humanity, and bring about a fourth liberation — the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.
The launch of Kongomano La Mageuzi-VUMA (KLM-VUMA) comes at a time when COVID-19 has brought home to the planet, the African continent and our country that we must reject all normality past and present and imagine new societies that are just, free, peaceful, non-militaristic, ecologically safe, egalitarian and equitable, non-racist, non-ethnic, gender-just, prosperous, and socialist. Of course, from lessons learnt over the last 100 years, socialism is being critiqued, historicised, and problematised in various creative ways. The focus seems to be on consolidating the strengths of socialism and mitigating its weaknesses. Public and organic intellectuals and movements are engaged in the quest for a paradigm or paradigms that will liberate the planet.
It is therefore useful to position KLM-VUMA — this movement of civil society organisations, social movements, and individuals committed to the transformation of the economic, social, cultural, spiritual, ideological and political status quo of our motherland — within the global, regional, and national contexts, so that the movement can clearly see the challenges that lie ahead, the difficulties that it will have to surmount.
The great African Marxist revolutionary Samir Amin has written extensively on the exploitation, oppression, and domination of the Global South by the imperialism of the West (neoliberalism), or what he calls the imperialism of the Triad (America, Europe, and Japan) with its satellite countries comprising Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In Europe, Germany seems to dominate the former states of the Soviet Empire, while Russia has not managed to remove itself from the clutches of the imperialism of the West. Nevertheless, neoliberalism as a paradigm for socio-economic life and politics has failed.
Social democratic societies seem to be consistently moving to the right, particularly in Europe and Canada (where there has been a muted social democracy). The Nordic countries and Holland —which experimented with a model of social democracy that prioritised public goods and radically mitigated capitalism —also seem to have moved to the right and are comfortably installed within the orbit of the imperialism of the West.
China has become the focus of attention for many liberation movements. Afro-Chinese relations are examined and debated but a consensus is yet to be reached on whether China is a neoliberal imperialist country. In my view it is. We hear the beating of the global drums of war as we witness cyber warfare and geopolitical positioning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenya, and indeed the Global South, has a great opportunity to regain its sovereignty amidst the growing tensions and hostilities between the West and China. We must take this opportunity to redress the historical injustices of colonialism. We should not be trooping to the US and the UK to sign skewed free trade agreements. It is this reimagining of Kenya and Africa — and its place in the world — that KLM-VUMA seeks to ignite.
On the African continent, the burning question is how to bring about the resurrection of radical people-to-people Pan-Africanism as envisioned, not by the leaderships of the African Union, but by the people of Africa themselves. Debates on this issue are reaching back to the political positions of Nyerere, Nkrumah, Cheikh Anta Diop, Amilcar Cabral, Gaddafi (particularly his call for African Unity to include a free African currency) and others in the African continent and Diaspora.
Closer to home the pandemic has exposed the wicked rule of the Kenyan elite and their foreign backers. Like their foreign patrons, our elite believe money is all it takes to organise and mobilise in politics; the Constitution decrees otherwise. The commons and public goods have been commodified. The mitigating vision of the 2010 Constitution has been subverted. Poverty has become a way of life for the majority of our compatriots. The middle class is shrinking and joining the ranks of the working class. In his time, J.M. Kariuki feared for a Kenya of ten millionaires and ten million beggars. Now we have (according to an Oxfam Report) a Kenya of 8,300 Kenyans billionaires and multi-millionaires whose assets equal those of the rest of us combined — all the 47 million of us.
The status quo in land, resources, the ownership of the commons and public goods is unacceptable and unsustainable. Kenya has a sovereign debt that makes it difficult for Kenyans to call our country free and independent. We have an elite that is daily engaged in grand corruption and all the ills of an illicit economy. President Uhuru Kenyatta has admitted in public that KSh2 billion is stolen daily in Kenya. As to why he has done nothing about it, your guess is as good as mine.
The Kenyan elite are without a doubt leaders unto darkness and death. They are geniuses in the politics of division and in the politics of inhumanity; the data proving this fact is incontrovertible. They have managed to keep Kenyans divided for the last 57 years and their ongoing intra-elite succession struggles seek to snuff out other political narratives and kill off any nascent alternative political leadership. It would not surprise me to see the opposing factions come together in the near future in the name of national unity; one only need analyse the alliances formed by our elites since independence.
The Kenyan elite have subverted the vision of the constitution and corrupted all its transformative ingredients. The opposition has joined the government, a faction of which now claims to be the opposition. We have a continuation of the dictatorships of the past.
The Kenyan middle class — particularly the lower and the middle middle-class — is being pushed back down into the ranks of the working class while the upper middle class, in its quest to join the ranks of the elite, continues to subsidise those elite. The entire Kenyan middle class actually subsidises the state. The monies they pay to the extended families to enable them to access public goods (education, housing, health, employment, water) even as they are heavily taxed, should motivate them to join the ranks of this movement. Will they?
Yes, we know Kenyans have resisted dictatorship since the 19th century. This resistance has taken place both underground and overtly. The Mau Mau War of Liberation fits within this trajectory of resistance and struggle for our land, our national resources, and our freedom and human dignity. History records that at no point did Kenyans ever stop struggling for justice, freedom, emancipation, and democracy. So why should we stop now? Kenyans have always consolidated the gains achieved and struggled for greater social reform.
There have been great leaps forward since independence, through the second liberation to the constitution making that culminated in the third liberation, the promulgation of the current constitution on 27 August 2010. The struggle for the full implementation of the constitution continues, with the Kenyan elite subverting its vision and clawing back the gains of 2010 in order to restore the status quo.
But there are challenges to be faced, and questions whose answers will give KLM-VUMA its manifesto, clarify its United Front ideological and political position, state its message clearly to the working class, the middle class and the popular nationalist and democratic forces, the baron-elite compradors, and the foreign interests of the West and East.
To begin with, we must study our history and learn about those who were here before us and about the pitfalls they faced so that we can go to the field well prepared. The essential question we must ask ourselves is: what has KLM-VUMA learnt from past movements and individuals including Me Kitilili, Waiyaki wa Hinga, Muthoni Nyanjiru, the Mau Mau Liberation Movement with its female and male leaders, the various religious and education movements such as Dini ya Msambwa and Dini ya Kaggia? What have we learnt of the struggles of Markhan Singh, Pio Gama Pinto, the Kenya People’s Union (KPU), the Kenya Socialist Alliance (KASA), Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the December Twelfth Movement, the Mwakenya Movement? What of the various movements of exiled Kenyans after 1982, the second liberation movement, Wangari Maathai, the National Convention Assembly-National Convention Executive Council (NCA-NCEC), and the constitution-making movements that gave us the progressive 2010 Constitution?
We must not forget to look outside Kenya, to Africa and beyond, to see which movements are working and those that aren’t. What has made certain movements successful and why others have failed. We must use this age of technology to learn about the past, understand our present and have a vision for the future — and a strategy and responses ready for when we do hit those walls.
Have we learnt the lessons from all these movements, their strengths and their weaknesses? Have we assimilated the principle of non-partisanship having learnt from the movements that received foreign funding which incapacitated them politically? Have we interrogated the importance of alliances with political parties that reflect our ideology and politics? Are we ready to contest for political power so that we can implement the 2010 Constitution and correct its weaknesses? Have we reflected on whether the movement will incubate alternative political leadership?
Which movements come under the umbrella of KLM-VUMA? Is DeCOALONIZE — which has shouted a loud NO! to the nuclear power and coal plants that our political leadership wants to obtain corruptly from countries that are discarding them) on board? The social justice movements should be on board, as indeed should the artists and movements in this country.
Have we analysed the strengths and weaknesses of the elites (economic, social, cultural, spiritual, ideological, and political) and the challenges posed? How shall we deal with the politics of division?
How shall we deal with the challenge of mobilising and organising? Are we ready to raise our funds from Wanjiku since we do not have finances?
How will we guarantee free, fair, peaceful, credible, and acceptable elections?
Will we build on the gains we shall make in 2022?
Will we become the people’s opposition even if we do not win in 2022?
Will our movement reflect the face of Kenya? Will this movement be led by the youths (women and men) of this country who reflect the vision for the change that we need?
What is the movement’s position on the resurrection of radical Pan-Africanism? Do we have positions on Palestine?
Are we anti-imperialist and anti-Kenyan elites?
What is our position on the rights of LGBTIQ+?
What do we consider to be the major weaknesses of the 2010 Constitution?
Do we believe that our movement has all the expertise it needs to serve as a government in waiting?
Are we going to dust off all the reports of the various historical injustices in this country and implement them?
If KLM-VUMA comes to power, will we pursue revenge politics against the elite? And if so, have we sufficiently analysed the political consequences?
What social reforms will we undertake?
What political messages will we have for Kenyan capitalists oppressed by the elite?
What political messages will we have for the foreign interests (a euphemism for the imperialism of the West and East)?
Have we thought through which anti-baronial political parties we will work with and why?
Have we clarified the ideological and political ingredients of a United Front that is anti-imperialist and anti-baronial?
Have we identified the public and organic intellectuals we shall work with? No movement can survive without organic intellectuals.
These are some of the burning questions that Kenyans must address in order to provoke a new political awakening, imagine a new politics, a new humanity, and bring about a fourth liberation — the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.
A luta continua, vitória é certa.
The struggle continues, victory is certain.
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Defend the Freedom of the Press
We, The Elephant, stand with our fellow journalists against the attacks meted during the coverage of the recent demonstrations. An independent, impartial, and objective media is a pillar of our democracy and crucial to both the state, the opposition, and the wider public. Freedom of the press is a non-negotiable.
Going by recent events, we are quickly sliding down a precarious path as regards freedom of the press. The spike in disinformation, influence peddling, hostility and attacks blurs the ability for the media sector to deliver, timely, critical and credible information necessary to help the public make informed decisions and hold meaningful conversations.
We are also particularly concerned by the targeting of specific media persons, media institutions, international journalists, and media industry practitioners.
In March 2023 alone, we have witnessed at least 45 reported cases of attacks, theft, harassment, and arrests by both sponsored state and non-state actors with some of the journalists affected suffering direct attacks and bodily harm.
The genesis of these attacks can be linked to the publication of the photos and issuance of summons by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) linked to the demonstrations on the 20th of March. The publication on the state agencies social media platforms was an exercise in error that included false, misleading and misconstrued claims against participants in the demonstration.
The unintended outcome has been the formulation, and instrumental-ization of hostility and violence against members of the 4th estate. So far we have witnessed the targeting of reporters, videographers, freelance practitioners, and photographers by police, hooligans, hired goons, and looters who’re kin to cause mayhem and evade justice.
Journalists as chroniclers of societal events, scribes of the evolution of political demands, and recorders of the unwarranted, gross violations, have a solemn duty to inform the public on matters of public interest. They therefore ought to be accorded their respect in time, their place in the political contestations as neutral arbiters, and respected as repositories of current and historical memories.
We urge our colleagues while out in the field to prioritize their safety, assess the risk factors, coordinate with their newsrooms, and the law enforcers, and review media ethics and the legal ramifications in the course of their work during demonstrations.
We urge freelance journalists to coordinate, liaise, and embed with their colleagues for safety purposes. We also urge for urgent investigations into the theft, assault and detainment of journalists, and call for speedy prosecution of the perpetrators. We also ask for refrain by public figures from spotlighting specific media persons and media houses, and ask aggrieved parties against media persons and institutions, to channel their complaints through the respective legal channels as provided by law.
The Elephant Desk
Addressing the Information Disorder: Building Collaboration
In deploying measures to address the information disorder, the trend is towards the establishment of multi-stakeholder collaboratives.
In a recent article, I discussed the need to address the information disorder (defined as mis- and disinformation) through collaborative multi-stakeholder collectives such as Fumbua Kenya. In this article, I take the next step of envisioning the ideal composition for such collectives. However, before doing so, I briefly explore other similar collectives with a view to drawing lessons on building collaboration.
A tried and tested concept?
For several years now, numerous stakeholders have attempted to address the information disorder in different ways such as fact-checking and conducting media literacy trainings. These solutions were often used in isolation. More recently, stakeholders recognized the importance of collaboration in deploying measures to address the information disorder. As a result, there has been a growing trend towards the establishment of multi-stakeholder collaboratives to address the information disorder as it relates to issues such as the pandemic or democratic processes such as elections.
Collaborative efforts have largely been dominated by media practitioners. For example, in Brazil, during the 2018 elections, a collective of journalists drawn from twenty-four different local media companies was established to debunk rumours, fabricated content, and manipulative content aimed at influencing the polls. This collective is known as Comprova. In the same year, a similar collective was established in Mexico with the same mandate. It was known as Verificado. A year later, Uruguay followed suit and established a collective under the same name. However, Uruguay’s iteration of Verificado broke the mould by incorporating academics, universities, and civil society professionals. With the examples of Brazil, Mexico, and Uruguay, Argentina was able to pull together a collective of more than 100 news organizations under the Re-Verso banner. Much like Uruguay, Argentina’s Re-Verso took the collaboration further by including other disciplines such as forensic scientists who were able to assist the journalists in fact-checking audio messages.
With the experiences of these collectives, recent multi-stakeholder collectives have become increasingly diverse in their composition. For example, the BBC recently launched the Trusted News Initiative which brings together journalists, social media platforms and technology companies, and researchers. The mandate of the Trusted News Initiative is to increase media literacy, develop early warning systems, engage in voter education, and provide a platform for stakeholders to share lessons. Similarly, the Credibility Coalition, which is comprised of researchers, journalists, academics, policymakers, and technologists, aims to foster collaboration around developing common standards for information credibility. One of Fumbua’s members—Meedan—is also a member of the Credibility Coalition.
When these collectives were initially established, they were primarily driven by the recognition of the importance of collaborative journalism, and the need to reach broader audiences. As a result, their composition was heavily biased towards the media. However, subsequent iterations recognized the importance of broadening the pool of collaboration to factor in other disciplines. Some have articulated this importance explicitly. For example, Nordis, a consortium of researchers and fact-checkers funded by the EU Commission, explains that the diversity in their composition is aimed at developing new insights, technological solutions, recommendations for journalistic practice and tools educators can use. Perhaps most importantly, they hope to have concrete policy recommendations for legislators.
Extrapolating the basics
Based on the examples of multi-stakeholder collectives around the world, one can discern common trends. For one, most collectives seem to be centred around journalistic practice and as such are dominated by media organizations. While there has been a recognition of the role played by other stakeholders such as academic researchers and cognitive scientists, their involvement has not been as robust and deliberate. These collectives also often crop up in response to a major socio-political/socio-economic event such as an election, and this influences their composition and activity.
Most collectives seem to be centred around journalistic practice and as such are dominated by media organizations.
Fumbua has largely conformed to these trends, being comprised of a large number of media organizations, and having been established to address the information disorder around the 2022 general election in Kenya. However, Fumbua’s experience is unique in several ways. For one, Fumbua included a pre-bunking initiative which was the first of its kind in Kenya—StopReflectVerify. Fumbua also relied on social media personalities and performing artists to repurpose some of the core messages developed by the journalists within their collectives. The use of multimedia content enabled the collective to engage audiences in ways that align with the nature of information consumption on social media. Perhaps most crucially, Fumbua was able to use its network to engage with policymakers and regulators to attempt to impact public policy.
One size does not fit all
When one considers the experience of the diverse collectives around the world, it is clear that each iteration was significantly influenced by several factors which were unique to each situation. From the social issue the collective was designed to respond to, to the available resources and organizations willing to participate, it is clear that one cannot define, in absolute terms, what these collectives should look like.
However, what remains clear is the importance of such collectives being intentional about defining the scope of collaboration, the role of each member, and how each member’s activities will feed into the larger collective’s work. In building collaboration, such collectives should also be mindful of the information value chain in their ecosystem. For example, in Kenya, one would be remiss to exclude vernacular radio stations which remain a consequential player in the media ecosystem.
The diversity of these collectives should be informed by the unique issues they are responding to. Fumbua for example was able to engage a large cross-section of its audiences in a way that was familiar to them by deliberately including stakeholders at all levels of the media ecosystem and supporting these stakeholders by amplifying their content and helping them repurpose it. However, at a broader level, these collectives should be designed around changing how the populace interacts with and consumes information. It no longer suffices to raise awareness around the existence of the information disorder, or to flag information as false or misleading. For this reason, these collectives ought to be focused on impacting how information systems are designed. This goal, considered in the context of the particular collectives, should then inform their composition.
The Roots of Toxic Masculinity in South Africa
In South Africa and elsewhere, toxic masculinity is an outcome of modern individualism rather than tradition.
As I stepped into the nightly streets of Cape Town’s most dangerous neighborhoods, I sensed that my journey would be an initiation. The goal of my research project was to document the lasting impact of apartheid racism and gender inequalities on tough and street-smart men. Little did I know that I would make every effort to become invulnerable in my own kind of way, trying to prove my masculinity and academic prowess through ethnographic fieldwork.
Just like many of the men I met in South Africa, I was attempting to shed my vulnerability. However, it never fully worked, even for a privileged European white man like me. Ethnography is an art form rather than a science and it makes researchers vulnerable as they continuously affect and are affected by the research subjects. Moreover, the pressure I put on myself to produce something exceptional to gain respect and impress others took a toll on me.
The paradox of (in)vulnerability made both my research participants and I complicit, although on vastly different terms. For me, attempts to become an invulnerable individual with fixed gender identity led to relationship problems, substance abuse, irritability, and suicidal thoughts. The more I sought invulnerability, the more vulnerable I felt. This (in)vulnerability has received little attention in research, which often disregards the gendering of behavior or turns masculinity into both the cause and solution for a range of social, psychological, and medical problems.
Over the course of more than 10 years of research, I could feel the pulse of (in)vulnerability; the throbbing between disconnection and connectivity, rigidity and disorder, closure and openness. Perhaps this pulse is a fundamental aspect of life for everyone, regardless of social and cultural differences. But the struggle for invulnerability takes on different rhythms based on circumstances. I have been witness to the pain and struggles of the men I interviewed. Some committed suicide, others were murdered, had fatal accidents, or died from infectious disease before they reached their 40s.
Although I stayed in contact with some of these men, I retreated to my safe haven after completing my doctoral research. Writing my dissertation and book was draining, filled with anger and shame over my inability to support the people whose stories I documented, and my own shortcomings. I was not living up to the ideals of a compassionate human rights advocate or a productive academic who could be sharp, unyielding, and daring at all times. But the survivor’s guilt was just another manifestation of me believing that I could be an individual savior.
As I delved deeper into my research, I realized I had fallen into a well-worn pattern—a white European male traveling to Africa to prove his masculinity. It dawned on me, most of the behaviors that are associated with toxic masculinity are an outcome of modern individualism rather than tradition in South Africa and elsewhere. White men imported the gendered ideal of a self-made individual. The trope can be traced back to 17th-century English philosophers who defined the individual as the “owner of himself,”” who owes little to others, with a core identity composed of seamless traits, behaviors, and attitudes, rather than an assemblage of contradictory elements adopted through ongoing exchanges with others.
South African psychologist Kopano Ratele argues that well-meaning critiques of gender ideologies tend to homogenize and retribalize African masculinities as if they had no history. From this perspective, contemporary heteronormativity and male power are not necessarily a matter of “‘tradition”’ as a single and fixed structure. Yet, gender development work in Africa often uses the term “toxic masculinity” interchangeably with “traditional masculinity” particularly among low-income Black men.
During my doctoral research, I found that my own assumptions about the dark ages of patriarchy and their continuing effects on South Africans were based on a teleological model of progress that obscures how modern individualism creates toxic masculinity. My pursuit of invulnerability through ethnographic research was an attempt to “be somebody” in a world in which personhood is seemingly no longer defined by mutuality in relationships. For the most marginalized men I met in Cape Town, this pursuit was by far more distressing, in part, because these men were aware of the fact that they always depended on others for their very survival.
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.
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