A humongous load of ignorance of Kenya is on display in a news analysis published last month by one —excuse the reference — mzungu who, no doubt, considers himself an expert on the country’s affairs.
No, the issue is not even ignorance as such but overweening racist arrogance that causes certain mzungus to see themselves as being quite capable of writing intelligibly about Africa even from their toilet seat in Europe.
The piece is titled, “Saitoti’s death and the coming battle”, by Richard Dowden. Richard Dowden is director of a colonial-era outfit called the Royal African Society based in London. Its slogan is: “Promoting Africa.” We don’t know what they mean by that, or who gave them the job.
Richard Dowden begins his piece thus: “The death of George Saitoti in a helicopter crash on June 10 removes one of the most important players in Kenya’s piranha pool politics. Saitoti served as a senior minister in the presidencies of Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki for more than 30 years, but he was more of an
executive prime minister than a political boss.”
Piranhas are small, fierce South American freshwater fish that eat other fish and sometimes plants, but also attack humans and other large animals that enter the water. Our politics are that primitive, according to Richard Dowden.
Saitoti was in the cabinet between 1983 and June 10, 2012 (even though he was chairman of this and that state corporation before then) Surely, those are not “more than 30 years” – leaving out the debatable matter of whether, indeed, Saitoti was “more of an executive prime minister” all that time. “Although he was planning to run for the presidency, his mixed parentage - Kikuyu and Masai - would never have given him unqualified support among the Kikuyu in Kenya’s highly tribalised politics, while the Masai are not numerous enough to be big political players.”
So Saitoti was of mixed parentage?
In Kenya’s “highly tribalised politics”, how did it happen that a Kikuyu (or even a man of mixed parentage) represented a Maasai constituency in parliament all those years? In his rush to dish out racist stereotypes about Africa, Richard Dowden had no time to think hard.
“A maths lecturer at Nairobi University who also wrote an influential book on development, he was invited by President Moi to become Finance Minister
in 1983.” Is that? And how influential was the book?
“The end of the Cold War in the late 1990s meant that Britain and other western donors could force multi party democracy on Kenya and also move the economy from a highly regulated state managed model to a free market.”
Some mzungu philanthropy there, as always. White saviours, black victims. We are hopelessly incapable of doing anything for ourselves. Multiparty democracy was a western project imposed in the Saitoti late 1990s, not 1991, to save us, yeah? There were no valiant Kenyan men and women who fought Moi’s one-party state for years and were detained or killed for their efforts. There were no street battles.
And Kenya had never before been a multiparty state until “the late 1990s”...
“Multi party democracy meant competition and that meant Harambees to get the Wananchi to vote for the ruling party. Harambees are open-air rallies at which the Wananchi - the ordinary people - are persuaded by the Big Men to vote for them. This means Nyama Choma (roasted meat), drink and wads of cash for the people.”
Has Richard Dowden ever been to Kenya? What is Harambee?
The Moi state created the Goldenberg monster to get money for the “Harambees”, Richard Dowden writes. Saitoti implemented the scam “and almost certainly benefitted from it personally.”
“In a subsequent inquiry, Saitoti and Pattni were named as culprits and Pattni was detained for a while. Then the whole affair was quietly dropped...Later, some 23 senior judges were forced to resign as a result of their involvement in the scandal.”
No judge was sent home because of Goldenberg, Mr Richard Dowden. None we can remember.
Richard Dowden returns to his reductionist obsession – tribalism – describing Kenya as “probably now the most tribally divided nation in Africa.” As if ethnicity is only a Kenyan or African reality.
And we might have to import national leaders from Britain, if we are serious about getting things right:
“With two tribalist leaders, Uhuru Kenyaata and William Ruto, facing a trial at The Hague which may start in March next year (the exact date will be announced on July 13th), the Kenyan election is wide open. Victory will go to the person who builds an alliance of tribal leaders. One thing is certain: Luo and Kikuyu will be on opposite sides. Raila Odinga, the Luo leader, will run and elements among the Kikuyu will do anything to stop him becoming president.”
Next, Richard Dowden pooh- poohs our Constitution. There is nothing in it really. The Brits had done a better job.
“The new constitution has recreated a Kenya of 47 counties, whose elected governments will be funded by the state to spend as they wish. It is, however, likely that a local politician from the dominant ethnic group in each county will be playing the ethnic card to garner support.”
Only ethnicity and corruption define us. These plagues cannot be found anywhere else in the world that God created.
“In 2008 the main wars were in Nyanza Province (Luoland) where (Kikuyu) police shot down Luo protesters, around Eldoret where Kikuyu immigrants were burned out of their homes and murdered by Kalenjin, and in Nairobi where battles took place in the poor slum areas between different ethnic groups.”
Perhaps such racist balderdash is what the Royal African Society means by its missionary-sounding slogan, “Promoting Africa.”