Kenya Crisis: The Battle Continues

Published on 23rd December 2008

As you will recall, Bunge la Mwananchi in association with its Civil Society partners, had been running a 3 (three) day campaign on the 10th, 11th and 12th December 2008. The campaign that climaxed on Jamhuri day celebration at Nyayo Stadium had actually started in March 2008 and initially was mobilized around "unga for 30/-" as a clarion call and later revisited to include "ushuru" (taxes). Noticing that government (in) security machinery often violently disrupts peaceful community meetings, street demonstrations before the message is communicated, this time we decided to be creative in tactic and chose to communicate our issues in a meeting mobilized by the State.

 

Campaign objectives

 

In broader picture, this campaign is about mobilizing Kenyans across the divide to dramatize their dissatisfaction with the people-insensitive, irresponsible and unaccountable grand coalition leadership. Specifically, the campaign sought in a creative way to communicate, loud and clear, the grass root people's concern about the following pertinent issues:

 

1. Inaccessible food - millions of Kenyans are on skip-a-meal program in urban poor areas and thousands remain at risk of starvation especially in Kwale, Turkana, Makueni, and West Pokot and in the urban informal settlements because of inaccessible food caused by unchecked price increase. While we appreciate high commodity prices are a global problem, we are aware that it is the work of a responsible government to cushion its citizens against such elements. Further, we are privy that maize flour price hiked to Ksh. 120.00 from Ksh. 45 in December 2008 because of greedy political class cartels profiting from high commodity prices.

 

2. High fuel prices - recently fuel pump price has skyrocketed to the highs of Ksh. 110 per litre from a low of Ksh. 65 in December 2008. It is hard to understand how our local fuel pump prices jerks upwards anytime there is an international fuel crisis and never adjusts commensurately when the problem is under control. Fuel crisis increases commodity prices since it affects transport costs and further compounds the problem of food for the urban poor who use kerosene for cooking food.

 

3. Waki report implementation - this report was and is not for politicians and no political games should be entertained on its implementation. Kenyans are aware that the Waki report implementation is a battle in our war to stop the culture of impunity among our leaders. Therefore, we remain emphatic that the findings and recommendations must be implemented in full.

 

4. Members of Parliament and Taxation - paying tax is a patriotic act towards national development! It is completely immoral, unjust and unfair that a construction worker earning Ksh. 12,000/- pm (meagre minimum wage) should pay tax, while a Member of Parliament earning Ksh. 1,200,000/- pm (highest paid person) does not.

 

5. Kenya Communications Amendment Bill- the passing of the bill by 25 legislators is an act of impunity from misguided Members of Parliament. The media serves the whole of society including politicians and not politicians exclusively. As consumers of news, Kenyans should be the ones to inform the limits of their right to information. The media has been helpful in highlighting issues such as those set out above. Kenyans therefore see a direct link between the gagging of the media and curtailing citizen awareness.

 

Achievements:

 

In general the Kenyan citizenry is getting empowered to mobilize, organize and communicate their issues to their leaders. This is happening across the divide: ethnicity, gender, age, political affiliation. Our politicians are acutely aware that Kenyans are discontented and that the platitudes offered during national speeches are falling on deaf ears. If they expect to continue enjoying public office, they must become sensitive to people's concerns. The people's movement is becoming the new political force in resisting oppression, fighting social injustices and demanding responsive and accountable leadership. Specific achievements include:

 

1. Food - following public pressure, the price of unga (maize flour) has been reduced from a high of Ksh. 120/- per 2kg to between Ksh. 52/- (for low income) and Ksh.72/- (for high income). However, questions remain over the distribution and effects of price discrimination.

 

2.  Fuel - the fuel pump price has fallen from a high of Ksh. 110/- per litre to Ksh. 79/- per litre following threats of public protests.

 

3. Waki report implementation- because of public pressure the government is grappling with enacting laws to guide implementation of the report and the report document itself remains in the public debate.

 

4. Members of Parliament taxation - the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has circulated a statement that confirms that under current laws the MPs can and should pay taxes. Two legislators are already paying tax and others are expressing willingness to pay. Further, there is a continuing debate over this issue, which places pressure on the MPs to pay taxes.

 

5. Media bill - it is likely that the President Kibaki will not assent to the bill as more and more leaders taking a cue from the public pressure are condemning the gagging of the media.

 

Challenges encountered

 

The police used brutal force to arrest 53 protesters in Nairobi and 4 protesters in Garissa; and detained some of the protesters for close to 36 hours notwithstanding that the constitution stipulates court appearance in 24 hours. Two of the protesters suffered bodily harm in police hands. We experienced interference with communication (phone and our website) to our supporters at home and in the diaspora. Currently, Jeevanjee Gardens , Uhuru Park and Ufungamano house remain under GSU security. We also suffered insufficient funds to respond in-real-time to the arrested people's needs.

 

Fresh demands

 

1. To President Kibaki and Rt. Hon. Raila-we shall continue to explore opportunities to creatively, peacefully and lawfully dramatize around the abovementioned and other issues affecting us until the day you exit or decide to give proper leadership.

 

2. To President Kibaki- you must apologize to Kenyans, for your not so honourable and below a statesman Jamhuri day remark that “those who are fighting let them fight...they are mad!” (at the time when Fredrick Odhiambo, Bunge la Mwananchi member was arrested).

 

3. Following use of brutal force by the police force in arrest of the over 60 peaceful protesters countywide exercising their constitutional rights guaranteed under Chapter 5 of the Constitution of Kenya, we demand that Minister for Internal Security, Prof. George Saitoti and the Police Commissioner, Major Ali Hussein must resign and face charges of human right violation.

 

4. We note with disgust the attempt at intimidating Kenyans through Military and Secret police camping at people’s social meeting places countrywide or if Kenya is in state of war requiring heavy of the GSU please declare the state of emergency.

 

Where do we go from here?

 

While we appreciate the gains made so far, we underscore that there are outstanding objectives of our campaign and the abovementioned issues are not exhaustive. Considering the gravity of problems facing our country, we want to insist that arrests or police intimidation shall not cow us from seeking to make our voice heard on national important issues.

 

Aside from the above-mentioned issues, we shall be expanding the campaign to include IDPs' situation, new constitution, land problem, slum housing and sanitation, high youth employment among others.

 

Therefore, we shall continue with civil direct action such as targeted protest in government convened public meetings at national and constituency level, street demonstrations, writing letters to concerned government officials and to newspaper editors, public interest litigations, and text messages to MPs, among others. It is important that mobilization and organization of our people through civic education on their issues continue throughout the country. And whichever form that this takes, whether it is public barazas under a tree, SMS news briefs, emails exchange, articles in print media etc Kenyans should get involved in and continue to participate in debating issues such as those above and any others that affect them. It is clear that the national intelligence service (NSIS) also investigates online activities and therefore online debates are effective, at a minimum to pass on to concerned quarters especially the President, our issues that are alive  on the ground.

 

Conclusion

 

In a country like Kenya with a population of 40 million, there are 40 million problems requiring 40 million solutions; hence, our nation needs 40 million leaders. We therefore call upon all Kenyans at home and in diaspora to join the army for "change we can live in". We must make sure that all Kenyans have right to food; make sure that Waki report is implemented comprehensively; make sure that our media is not muzzled and refocus national debate on the agenda number 4 of the peace accord. The time is now to recapture, reimagine and recreate Kenya and therefore we must all be involved in challenging the current insensitive, irresponsible and unaccountable leadership.

 

Lastly, I salute the Bunge Council leaders: Jacob Odipo, Keli Musyoka, Gacheke Gachihi, Samson Ojiayo and Salim Nganga; Bunge- Muthurwa Patrick Kamotho; Bunge- Kibera: Yassni Ismail; Bunge- Huruma network: Calvin Mbugua, Raphael Mwongela and Peter Marirmi; Bunge- Nakuru network: David Muraya and Omondi Jack; Bunge-Mombasa network- Salim Mwangi and Ahmad Mohamed; Bunge-Eldoret Cornelius Biwott and Mark Korir and other partners worthy mention: Sheikh Ramadhani Ahmad, Kangethe Muingai, Alamin Kimathi,Steve Musau, Morris Odhiambo and Somoni Birundu for their leaders for their selfless work to ensure the success of this campaign. I also salute YOU for your invaluable support: for shouting “unga/ushuru” at Nyayo stadium, for showing up at the police station and hospital or for the encouraging phone calls that we received, text messages and emails (which were so many and I have not been able to respond to each of them individually but I will).

 

Thank you again,

 

George Nyongesa

 

Bunge la Mwananchi


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