The spate of violence after the 2017 presidential poll in Kenya was appalling. I was perturbed by the pictures of violence in Nairobi city, Mathare and Baba Ndogo. Angry youth staged demonstrations and shouted war cries as their leaders rode on up-market vehicles. Jubilee supporters, featuring youth and market women singing an Akorino songs beat improvised and real drums and waved Kenyan flags. I began to question whether the youth in the NASA and Jubilee camps had anything in common with their respective leaders.
Raila’s youth belong to the millennial cadre that feels betrayed because even if they have education, they are unlikely to get jobs. They are sons and daughters of the first and second generation migrants. They cannot get jobs like their parents who did so on arrival in the city. While it was easy for unemployed individuals to settle in the informal sector in the past, today, things are different. Youths have been socialized to clamor for white collar. Digitization has also reduced the uptake workers in banks and other service sectors. The youth who are lucky to get jobs are equally frustrated when they get jobs as casuals. Most jobs in the security and cleaning fields are not attractive to urban youths. Most of the companies thus recruit from rural areas.
The women celebrating jubilee victory are in their 40s and most likely have children in school. They report to the dilapidated market everyday so that they can nurture and take care of their children. The song mucibi wa marigiti (market belt) expresses the market women traders’ motive and logic for participating in market trade.
Why should women working under conditions of hardship and the unemployed youth gang together to join resistance movements that will address the problems of bad governance? Resistance movements such as the Zapatistas in Latin America, have solid socio-economic and political policies for their subaltern communities. They have existing plans and ideologies which they socialize their followers into. Kenyan policies most often have ethnicity as their bottomline.
Our youth are looking for a chance to get their footing into the economy. The women are looking for stability to continue with their work. For all practical purposes, they will not be accommodated by either Uhuru or Raila’s governments. The duo will only use them as instruments to achieve their political and economic goals.
An analysis of Newspaper reports on both sides depicts tirades of insults, personal attacks, name-calling and blame games. They are far from being conciliatory. They fuel the fires of hatred, mistrust, and fear. The destruction of property and killings provide justification for each side not to trust the other.
Instead of Raila recruiting people from the Jubilee side, he is deepening the divide. Similarly, Instead of Uhuru recruiting from the NASA camp, he is alienating himself even further. The behavior of the two deepens the wounds.
The movements’ ideological positioning is rooted in fear. Jubilee fears that if NASA takes over, it will it dominate the means of production and repossess Jubilee’s businesses. Jubilee believes that NASA will advise its supporters who live in Jubilee supporters’ houses to refuse to pay rent. Jubilee further believes that NASA will punish Jubilee in the pursuit of socio-economic justice. NASA on the other hand believes that with Jubilee in power, NASA regions will continue to be economically marginalized. Political repression against NASA adherents will continue; the national cake will continue to be enjoyed by two ethnic entities as NASA watches; and NASA’s voice will never be appreciated in national discourse.
The NASA Jubilee ideologies are rooted in unholy alliances. At independence, Jaramogi Odinga supported Jomo Kenyatta’s presidency. He declared that there would be no Uhuru without Kenyatta. For this, he rallied his supporters to follow him in joining KANUs clamor for independence. It is not clear how deep this union penetrated the ideological fiber of his party KADU or how much of KADU’s ideology KANU accommodated. To usher in multiparty democracy with the removal of President Arap Moi, another unholy alliance was initiated under Kibaki Tosha by Raila Odinga. Kibaki was not a revolutionary. He was not a progressive. He was a straight conservative neoclassical economist. Again, whether this alliance fulfilled the aspirations of Kenyans remains to be seen.
A casual look at these and many other ongoing alliances in Kenya shows that they are based on a memorandum of understanding, convenience or the individuals self-interests of gaining power. In each of these alliances, the leaders move their people as packages rather than free atoms who should mingle and interact and build relationships. The packages remain as they are with their fears, mistrust, and hatred. The leaders seal these packages ready to move them to the next deal.
The solution to Kenyan problems lies in youth and women who realize that they have more in common with each other than with Raila or Uhuru.
By Mary Njeri Kinyanjui
Institute of Development Studies, The University of Nairobi.