Connect with us

Op-Eds

Kenya: Things Fall Apart

7 min read.

Kenyans’ collective trauma has been exacerbated by a culture of violence, greed, betrayal and impunity.

Published

on

Things Fall Apart
Download PDFPrint Article

When do families fall apart and begin dying? Is it when the one holding them together – a grandfather, a mother, or perhaps a child – dies or moves away? Or it is when members of that family start competing, rather than cooperating, with each other? Or maybe it’s when an adverse or traumatic event forces members of that family to split up?

When do cities fall apart and begin dying? Is it when the authorities stop providing essential services such as water and electricity, forcing people to migrate and seek services and opportunities elsewhere? Or is it when citizens fail to adhere to a social contract that says that civility, compassion and respect for others should dictate how they behave towards each other? Or maybe it’s when the yawning gap between slum dwellers and mansion dwellers becomes so huge that people have no choice but to stage a revolution or a civil war, which ends up destroying the city?

When do nations fall apart and begin dying? Is it when leaders start plundering their countries, leaving the majority to wallow in poverty, without any dignity or hope? Or is it when leaders betray the trust of the citizenry by using them as pawns in their political ambitions? Or maybe it’s when citizens decide they don’t want to be part of that nation because it is too painful. So they flee or become passive victims of the state rather than active and proud citizens of their country.

I recently asked Kenyans on Twitter what was the one event that made them lose faith in their country, the one thing that killed their idea of a prosperous, united and hopeful Kenya. I was asking this question because I am becoming increasingly disillusioned by the country and city of my birth, and have been wondering if others are feeling the same way. The responses were fast and furious. (Note: I have not included explanatory remarks in their responses because almost every Kenyan will know what the respondents are talking about.)

Here are a few samples:

“The day Langata Road School children were teargassed for protecting their playground from landgrabbers.”

“When a medical student was murdered by her boyfriend and people called her a slay queen.” 

“No one event, just the healthcare system.”

“When a patient dies at a hospital doorstep because the people who brought him couldn’t raise a deposit.” 

“When we forgot the difference between a leader and a politician.”

When 147 students were killed in Garissa University by Al Shabaab during a 7-hour ordeal and no one has been held to account for this grave lapse in security.”

“When a man at the helm asked us, ‘Nifanye nini jameni?’”

“When Kenyans voted for ICC indictees.”

“When a governor who killed a mother and her unborn child remained in office.”

“When Babu Owino walked free after shooting a deejay.”

“Realising neighbouring countries have cheaper commodities, never mind they pass through our ports.”

“Spending the night in traffic.” 

“When a cop in Kisumu shot a school kid and removed the bullet with a knife.”

“When police killed the Kianjokoma brothers for breaking a curfew.”

“The day BBI was rammed down our throats and county assemblies were bribed to pass it.”

“Water and electricity shortages.” 

“I will never forget 2007/2008. The darkest moment in Kenya’s history.” 

“When the same leaders who caused grave losses and deaths due to reckless choice of words were re-elected into office and still hold those offices…Kenyans are beyond redemption.”

“Opaque SGR contracts.”

“Imperial Bank. My father lost all his money and it killed him.”

As I write this, the responses are still coming but I no longer have the stomach to read them because they remind me of how broken we are as a society, as a people, and as a nation. In the last 24-hours I have had to deal with power and water cuts (the latter seems to be a perennial problem precipitated by water cartels at the Nairobi Water Company). As I look at my huge pile of unwashed clothes, I think about all those living in slums who make do with 20 litres of water a day. How can one live in this city and stay sane? (Meanwhile our leaders are either throwing lavish birthday parties for themselves and eating cake or throwing huge amounts of money at boda boda riders from helicopters during election rallies. Where did all this money come from? Do we ask?) A devout Christian friend tells me politicians in Kenya are not true Christians because even Jesus would have denounced their contempt for the poor. Some Kenyans believe the church in Kenya is itself responsible for our moral decay.

Collective trauma 

The four themes that seem to stand out in most of the responses are violence, greed, betrayal, and impunity. And of course, the trauma that is related to all four.

My American friend Angi tells me that all Kenyans suffer from some form of collective trauma. The first book Angi read when she was moving to Kenya was Caroline Elkins’ Britain’s Gulag, so maybe her view of Kenya is clouded. But like her, I also believe that while all Kenyans (even muhindis like me) suffer from the effects of some kind of trauma – whether it is torture or intimidation at the hands of a police officer or abuse by a family member or lack of basic services such as water), the Kikuyus (because of their proximity to white colonial settlers who grabbed their land and killed and tortured them when they demanded their land back) suffer and have suffered the deepest forms of trauma both before and after independence.  This is because the vast majority of them suffered at the hands of fellow Kikuyus – the Home Guard – who continued with the grabbing and the torture after the country gained independence. This betrayal by one’s own is something we rarely talk about because even history has become an optional subject in schools. (Until Elkins published her book, few of us knew the extent of the brutality endured by the Kikuyu during the Emergency.)

Meanwhile our leaders are throwing lavish birthday parties for themselves and eating cake.

My Luo friends tell me that their fortunes deteriorated after the assassination of Tom Mboya. That day in July 1969 reminds them to this day that they are Kenya’s most dispensable – and perhaps most feared – ethnic group. My Somali acquaintances tell me they are not just dispensable but invisible to the state, with or without Aden Duale. Some of them come from remote villages that have to this day not seen a tarmacked road or a clinic. Asians, who are generally viewed as trauma-free because they are among the wealthiest groups in Kenya, speak about feelings of alienation and rejection – a state of limbo ignited by past traumatic events, like the murder of Pio Gama Pinto, who among others, fought for the country’s independence, Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972, the 1982 coup attempt that saw many of their homes and businesses looted, and the exposure of mega-thieves like Kamlesh Pattni, who gave the whole community a bad name.

The list of grievances among Kenyans is long. These grievances have been documented in the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission’s report, which sadly, was also ignored by none other than the president, who failed to implement its recommendations. (If you want to read its contents, go to the University of Seattle’s website; no Kenyan government department has bothered to archive it online.)

I wrote a short story called Have Another Roti that was published in Nairobi Noir. The setting is the Parklands neighbourhood of Nairobi and memories of Mogadishu. I thought I was writing about trauma but many of my readers believed that I had written a story about forbidden love. One even told me that she couldn’t stop laughing while reading it. While there are some humorous passages in the book, the humour underlines deep-seated trauma. Laughing at the ridiculous is Kenyans’ way of coping with trauma. We laugh because crying would take us too close to home.

Angi tells me that there are four stages in trauma response: Fight, flight, freeze, and submit (in that order). Those who have watched wildlife documentaries will understand this. When a lioness is hunting a zebra (yes, it is usually the female of the species that does the hunting to feed her family), the zebra’s first instinct is to fight the lioness. If fighting doesn’t seem like a viable option (because the lioness is stronger, faster and bigger than the zebra), the zebra runs as fast as it can. When the lioness eventually catches up with the zebra and digs her fangs into its neck, the zebra goes into freeze mode, eventually submitting to the inevitability of its own demise.

These trauma responses are not confined to wild animals. During colonialism and during the Moi era, many Kenyans were either in fight or flight mode. These Kenyans either joined resistance/pro-democracy movements or went into exile. The rest fell into freeze or submit mode, which allowed them to survive Moi without incurring his wrath. It also allowed them to become numb because freezing emotionally was preferable to feeling. That freeze mode lasted until December 2002 when a new president who ousted KANU offered hope for a better future. Kenya was then ranked as the most optimistic nation on earth.

Violence and betrayal 

But just when Kenyans were beginning to believe that they were about to reach nirvana, Mwai Kibaki began replicating the sins of his predecessor. Mega corruption scandals like Anglo Leasing began to surface. Kibaki also reneged on his promise to review the constitution.

Then the post-election violence of 2007/8 happened, and we were back to enacting our trauma responses. For those who were raped, maimed or displaced during the violence, or who lost loved ones, the trauma remained raw for many years, and is still with them. For others, the violence reminded us of past traumas and strengthened our belief that we must never go to that place again. So we resisted. The period between 2008 and 2013 gave us an opportunity to regroup, to re-strategize, to work towards a better Kenya. We voted for a new constitution, which paved the way for a more accountable government and leaders with integrity. Commissions to unite the country and to provide oversight to our new institutions were formed, but their impact was minimal.

The highly contested election of March 2013 that saw people indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) assuming the presidency led many of us to retreat to freeze or submit mode. Neither the new constitution nor the courts could prevent this bizarre development (regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused, and of the fact that others who were most responsible for the mayhem of 2007/8 escaped any form of justice). What followed was a reckless government that had no qualms about piling up the national debt, runaway corruption in ministries and government departments, opaque Chinese contracts, impunity, and a leadership convinced of its invincibility. In the first four years of the UhuRuto presidency, poverty levels in Kenya increased from 38.9 per cent to 53 per cent.

The four themes that seem to stand out in most of the responses are violence, greed, betrayal, and impunity.

Then in 2018, a “handshake” between the president and the leader of the opposition killed any viable form of resistance in Kenya, leaving the sitting deputy president competing against his boss, a scenario that can only play out in highly dysfunctional societies. So, we are still in the throes of a trauma that has not yet been acknowledged or healed. The media, meanwhile, is living up to the adage that he who pays the piper calls the tune, leaving us wondering whether Kenyan journalists inhabit the world the rest of us live in.

Last week, several bodies (no one is quite sure how many, but at least 20) were found dumped in the Yala River. Some had been tied up and placed in sacks. Others seemed to have been mutilated. Few have come forward to claim these bodies or to identify them. In other countries, this would be front-page news for days, but here it passes off as just another inexplicable (and forgettable) event. There is no shock or horror, or demands for justice for the victims.

We are all in submit mode now.

Support The Elephant.

The Elephant is helping to build a truly public platform, while producing consistent, quality investigations, opinions and analysis. The Elephant cannot survive and grow without your participation. Now, more than ever, it is vital for The Elephant to reach as many people as possible.

Your support helps protect The Elephant's independence and it means we can continue keeping the democratic space free, open and robust. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our collective future.

By

Rasna Warah is a Kenyan writer and journalist. In a previous incarnation, she was an editor at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). She has published two books on Somalia – War Crimes (2014) and Mogadishu Then and Now (2012) – and is the author UNsilenced (2016), and Triple Heritage (1998).

Op-Eds

Twitter: Let It Burn!

Whether or not Twitter survives should be irrelevant to those committed to building a democratic public sphere.

Published

on

Twitter: Let It Burn!
Download PDFPrint Article

Elon Musk finally bought Twitter. Although everyone expected the move to quickly prove foolhardy, the speed of the implosion has been impressive. The latest gaffe is a failed attempt to monetize verification by requiring paid subscriptions for them, which has led to all manner of comical impersonations (one macabre highlight was a “verified” George W. Bush account tweeting “I miss killing Iraqis. “Tony Blair” responded with “Same tbh”). Some are watching with shock and horror and wondering if Twitter can be saved. But, when sulfur and fire rains, it is best not to look back.

Africa Is a Country managing editor, Boima Tucker, put it best some years ago: “Contrary to the utopian dreams of the early internet, the idea of a more democratic communications space has given way to a system of capitalist exploitation.” The thing to reckon with is the extent to which we have exaggerated the emancipatory potential of networked communication and social media, partly owing to our own psychic overinvestments in it. Which is not to deny that it has never shown democratic and egalitarian potential, but that’s never been what Twitter is forThere can be no right platform in the wrong world.

What was Twitter for then? In the New York Review of Books, Ben Tarnoff describes it as a “network of influence.” In a world characterized by the economization of everything, social media is the place to commodify the self, to transform one’s unique traits and personality into a product for public display. The main imperative online is to “stay on brand,” to cultivate an appealing enough persona in the endless “production of new genres of being human.”

The key contradiction of social media use, of course, is that even though these platforms appear to us as complete products that we participate in and consume, we are the ones responsible for ensuring their possibility in the first place. As the media scholar Christian Fuchs notes, “Digital work is the organization of human experiences with the help of the human brain, digital media and speech in such a way that new products are created. These products can be online information, meanings, social relations, artifacts or social systems.” Thus, it is us who create the value of these platforms.

In a better world, these digital communications platforms would be democratically owned and operated. But one also wonders if in a better world they would be as necessary. Perhaps, when we are less socially disaffected, living in societies with social provision, an abundance of recreational public goods and less exploitative, dignifying work, then we would all have less reason to be online. For now, the question is: in a time when this ideal is nowhere close to being within view, how best can we use platforms like Twitter as tools to get us to that world?

The possible answers here are murky. Twitter seems like a critical piece of infrastructure for modern political life. Musk is not alone in thinking of it as a marketplace of ideas, as something like a digital town square. Yet, and especially in Africa, Twitter is not as popular a platform, and even on it, a minority of Twiteratti exert an outsized influence in terms of setting the discursive agenda. But setting aside the question of who is excluded from the digitalized public sphere of which Twitter is a cornerstone, the important question is whether the quality of political debate that takes place is healthy or desirable at all. Granted, it can be fun and cathartic, but at the best of times, amounts to hyper-politics. In Anton Jager’s explanation, this:

can only occur at a discursive level or within the prism of mediatic politics: every major event is scrutinized for its ideological character, this produces controversies which play out among increasingly clearly delineated camps on social media platforms and are then rebounded through each side’s preferred media outlets. Through this process much is politicized, but little is achieved.

We would lack critical self-awareness if we did not admit that Africa Is A Country is a venue whose existence greatly benefits from an online presence—so it goes for every media outlet. Tarnoff points out that “… if Twitter is not all that populous in absolute terms, it does exert considerable power over popular and elite discourses.” To lack an online presence is to reconcile oneself to irrelevance. Although, the news cycle itself is a disorienting vortex of one topic du jour to the next. It makes difficult the kind of long, slow, and sustained discourse-over-time that is the lifeblood of politics, and instead reduces everything into fleeting soundbites.

Nowhere is the modern phenomenon of what Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called “pointillist time” more apparent than on Twitter. For Bauman, pointillist time is the experience of temporality as a series of eternal instants, and the present moment’s connection to the past and future “turns into gaps—with no bridges, and hopefully unbridgeable.” The consequence of this, is that “there is no room for the idea of ‘progress.’” Living through a mode where everything seems to be happening all at once, is both to experience time as what Walter Benjamin called “a “time of possibilities, a random time, open at any moment to the unforeseeable irruption of the new,” but curiously, at the same time, for everything to feel inert, and for nothing to seem genuinely possible.

For a while, notions of historical progress have been passé on the left, associated with Eurocentric theories of modernity. Now, more than ever, the idea is worth reclaiming. The Right today is no longer straightforwardly conservative, but nihilistic and anti-social, thriving on sowing deeper communal mistrust and paranoia. These are pathologies that flourish on Twitter. The alternative to media-fuelled hyper-politics and anti-politics is not real politics per some ideal type. Politics, in the first instance, is not defined by content, but by form. The reason our politics are empty and shallow is not because today’s political subject lacks virtues possessed by the subjects of yore. It’s because today’s political subject is barely one in the first place, lacking rootedness in those institutions that would have ordinarily shaped an individual’s clear sense of values and commitments. The alternative to digitized human association, as noted by many, is mass politics: only when the majority of citizens are meaningfully mobilized through civic and political organizations can we create a vibrant and substantive public sphere.

AIAC editor Sean Jacobs observed in his book, Media In Post-apartheid South Africa: “the larger context for the growing role of media in political processes is the decline of mass political parties and social movements.” Whether Twitter dies or not, and if it does, whether we should mourn it or not, should be beside the point for those committed to building a world of three-dimensional solidarity and justice.

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.

Continue Reading

Op-Eds

COP 27: Climate Negotiations Repeatedly Flounder

The distribution of global pandemic deaths ignored existing country vulnerability assessments and dealt some of the heaviest blows to the best prepared countries in the world

Published

on

COP 27: Climate Negotiations Repeatedly Flounder
Download PDFPrint Article

As COP 27 in Egypt nears its end, I find it difficult, almost impossible, to talk to my children about climate change. The shame of our monumental failings as a global community to address the greatest crisis our planet has consciously faced weighs too heavy. The stakes have never been higher, the moral quivering of political leaders has never been more distressing.

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others,” goes the famous commandment from George Orwell’s political allegory Animal Farm. It applies with particular acuity to international negotiations, where each country has a seat, but seats hold very different weights. The outcome of the Sharm-El-Sheik conference will in large part depend on what Western governments are willing to commit to and follow up on. Rich European and other Western countries are historically responsible for the bulk of carbon emissions. The moral case for them being the first-movers and the biggest movers on cutting emissions is crystal clear, and genuine commitments on their part may hold the key to opening up the floodgate of policy innovation towards decarbonization in other countries.

In this context, viewed from the Global South, recent events in the country that still held the COP presidency until it was handed over to Egypt appear as signs of the madness that grips societies before a fall. In her short time as head of government in the UK, Liz Truss spoke as if she lived on another planet that did not show signs of collapsing under the battering of models of economic growth birthed under the British Empire, gleefully pronouncing that her three priorities for Britain were “growth, growth and growth.” Her successor, Rishi Sunak, announced that he would not attend the COP 27 climate summit because he had to focus on the UK economy. The silver lining is that Truss did not last long and Sunak was shamed into reversing his decision. In a scathing rebuke, the Spanish environment minister called the shenanigans of British political leaders “absurd” and pointed out that elections in Brazil and Australia show that voters are starting to punish leaders who ignore climate change.

I see another silver lining. Last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that Europe was warming twice as fast as other parts of the world. A similar report was not issued for North America, but other studies indicate faster than average temperature increases across the continent’s northeastern coast, and its west coast was home to one of the most striking heat waves last year, with a memorable summer temperature peak of 49.6°C recorded in British Columbia, Canada.

Professor Petteri Taalas, the WMO secretary-general, emphasized that the findings highlighted that “even well-prepared societies are not safe from impacts of extreme weather events.” In other words, the report should make Europeans think it could happen to us, with “it” being devastating floods on the scale of what Pakistan and Bangladesh recently experienced, or the hunger-inducing droughts afflicting Madagascar and the Horn of Africa. While some may find it dismal that human beings remain relatively unmoved by the plight of other human beings considered too distant or too different, this is a part of human nature to reckon with. And reckoning with it can turn a sentiment of shared vulnerability into an opportunity for the planet.

Climate negotiations have repeatedly floundered on the unwillingness of rich countries to pay developing countries loss and damages to fund their transitions to greener energies and build crucially needed climate adaptability to limit deaths. Underlying such a position is a centuries-old smug belief that Europe and North America will never need to depend on solidarity from other parts of the world. The WMO report calls into question such hubris, as did the Covid 19 pandemic before that.

The distribution of global pandemic deaths ignored existing country vulnerability assessments and dealt some of the heaviest blows to the best prepared countries in the world. Europe and North America, where barely 15% of the world population resides, accounted for more than half of COVID deaths. Turning the normal direction of disaster statistics upside down, high- and upper-middle-income countries accounted for four out of five Covid deaths globally. While some scientists still pose questions over the real death toll in low-income countries, I was grateful to not live in the West during the pandemic. In Burkina Faso, Kenya and Senegal where I spent most of my pandemic months, I often encountered “COVID refugees,” young Europeans who had temporarily relocated to work remotely from Africa to escape pandemic despair at home.

We are at a point in our failures to fight climate change where fiction writers and other experts of human nature are often more useful than scientists in indicating what our priorities should be. Many fiction writers have turned their focus on what will be necessary for humans to remain humane as societies crumble. Before we get to that stage, let us hope that political leaders and delegates keep remembering that climate disaster could very concretely befall them personally at any time. Let us hope that the sense of equal—or more cynically, unpredictable—vulnerability instills a sense of global solidarity and a platform to negotiate in true good faith. Let us hope that we can start talking to our children again about what we adults are doing to avert the disaster that looms over their futures.

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.

Continue Reading

Op-Eds

The Specter of Foreign Forces in Haiti

The so-called ‘Haitian crisis’ is primarily about outsiders’ attempts force Haitians to live under an imposed order and the latter’s resistance to that order.

Published

on

The Specter of Foreign Forces in Haiti
Download PDFPrint Article

What actually happened on the nights of October 6th and 7th, 2022, remains unclear. What reverberated was the rather loud rumor of the resignation of Haiti’s acting prime minister  Ariel Henry. He was a member of President Jovenel Moïse’s pro-US Pati Ayisien Tèt Kale (PHTK) party. (Moïse was assassinated in July 2021.) Had Henry truly resigned? Or was it just a well-propagated rumor? Could it have perhaps been both at the same time: that Henry might have indeed resigned but had been coerced to stay, thus making the news of his resignation spread like gossip that the governmental communication machine had fabricated for public consumption?

Nevertheless, we witnessed the following the next day: in Henry’s address to the nation, he first requested the intervention of foreign military forces in Haiti. He then made a formal request to the United Nations. This call was picked up by international organizations, particularly the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres. In the media coverage of the events, no relationship was established between the (rumored) resignation of the de facto Prime Minister and his request for military intervention. Was it a way to keep our minds occupied while waiting on a response from the international community? Or was the military intervention a promise made by the international community to Henry for the withdrawal of his letter of resignation?

Media coverage has seemingly obscured what happened on October 6th and 7th by choosing to focus solely on the request for military intervention, obscuring a chain of events in the process. Was the same request addressed to the UN and the US administration? Or were these two distinct approaches: one within a multilateral framework and the other within a bilateral framework? Supposing it was the latter, what does this tell us about the Haitian government’s domestic policy, about US foreign policy toward (or against) Haiti, or even about geopolitics (as part of a white-hot world order)—especially in light of US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols’ visit to Haiti, his ensuing meetings, and the presence of US Coast Guard ships in Haitian waters?

At least one thing’s for sure. Since the request for formal intervention and the presence of the US in the form of its warships and its emissary, the question of military intervention has been swiftly framed as a discourse on the supposed “consensus between Haitians.” In reality, it refers to the convergence of interests between the representatives of the de facto Haitian government; the representatives of the Montana Accord (agreed on between civic and political groups in the wake of Moise’s assassination); and the president, Fritz Jean, and prime minister, Steven Benoit, agreed on as part of that accord. The message is clear: If you do not want a military intervention, side with Ariel Henry, who initiated the request himself. Any posture of self-determination must undergo review by Ariel Henry and his crew.

In these circumstances, there can be no self-determination. It is as though those truly responsible for the military intervention (which was already underway) aren’t those who asked for it, but rather those who were unable to thwart it by finding an agreement with the former group. In this sense, the “nationalist” label (the current catchall term which, among other things, is being made to include any praxis refuting the colonial apparatus) refers to doing everything possible to avoid military intervention—and that means doing exactly what the representatives of the “Colonial Capitalist Internationale” want.

American presence in Haiti—in the form of warships and a high-ranking emissary—takes after historical colonial endeavors such as the Napoleonic expedition for the reestablishment of slavery (1802) and King Charles X’s fleet, sent to demand ransom for Haiti’s independence (1825). Yet, in this case, the point is not to put pressure on those who hold the keys to institutions, but rather to avoid losing control in a context where those in government are not only misguided, but also display the greatest shortcomings in managing the lives of the population for the better. The US’s current presence thus more closely echoes the language of the English warship HMS Bulldog, sent to shell the city of Cap Haitien to support President Geffrard against the anti-government insurrection of Salnave.

The Henry government uses the same grammar as its tutelar powers to discuss the current situation. Much has been made of “efforts deployed by the United States and Canada”: they have consisted in flying police equipment into Haiti on Canadian and US military cargo aircraft. Henry and the Haitian National Police offered warm, public thanks for material paid for with Haitian funds some time ago; indeed, these deliveries have come very late, and only thanks to pressure from Haitian civil society actors. More problematic still, the presence of foreign military planes at the Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port-au-Prince has served both as evidence of an ongoing military intervention and as a subterfuge to obtain such an intervention.

This request for intervention, while it seeks to obfuscate this fact, nevertheless exposes the political illegitimacy of the Henry government—made up of members of Henry’s PHTK and former members of the opposition. Its illegitimacy doesn’t rest on the usual discussion (or lack thereof) and confrontation between the governors and the governed, nor on the classic power play between the political opposition and the authorities in place; rather, it is the result of the absolute rejection on the part of Haitians of an order controlled and engineered by the PHTK machine in Haiti for over 10 years with one purpose in mind: defending the neoliberal interests and projects of the Colonial Capitalist Internationale. The request for intervention reveals the fact that the rejection of the PHTK machine is but one part of a broader rejection of the neoliberal colonial order as it has manifested itself in various anti-popular economic projects, which themselves were made possible by many attempts at reconfiguring Haiti socially and constitutionally: consider, to name but a few, the financial project of privatization of the island of Gonâve, the referendum to replace the 1987 Constitution, and others.

For the first time since the US military intervention of 1915 (the centenary of which was silenced by the PHTK machine), we are witnessing a direct confrontation between the Colonial Capitalist Internationale and the Haitian people, as local political go-betweens aren’t in a position to mediate and local armed forces (whether the military, the militias, or the armed gangs) aren’t able to fully and totally repress unrest. In this colonial scenario—drafted in the past five years, maintained and fueled by the geopolitics of “natural disasters,” epidemics, pandemics, and the presence of gangs (simultaneously functioning as the armed extensions of political parties and materializing “disorder”)—the only possible solution to chaos is military intervention by foreign forces.

Yet one cannot pretend that such an intervention will help the Haitian people, and no agreement crafted in the language of the colonial system can stifle popular demands and aspirations which, in the past twelve years, have built what Haitian academic and activist Camille Chalmers calls a real “anti-imperialist conscience.”

What of late has breathlessly been labeled the “Haitian crisis” must instead be identified as the highest point of the contradiction which has brewed throughout the PHTK regime: between the International Colonial Capitalists’ will to force us to live under an imposed order and our resistance to that order.

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.

Continue Reading

Trending