The Star (Nairobi)

9 February 2013

Kenya: Kimaiyo Wrong to Gag Kenyans Over Land

The land question is back in the limelight with a twist. Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo has given a directive to the effect that "land should not be one of the issues on the campaign trail because it is so emotive and can trigger violence." In his opinion, politicians who engage in such talk are not "self-respecting".

A liberal Kenyan mind will wonder how an officer of that rank can say that in the 21st century realities. That remark will clearly have a lonely space in our annals of history by an officer that high in government in the new dispensation.

What does stopping discussion on land mean? If we decided to reconstruct our national history deleting ramifications of land as a motif force in political processes, what shall we be left with?

By his edict, Kimaiyo just banned politics. Kimaiyo's wish was only viable in the primitive communal mode of production where land had no bounds, was least populated, and packed with wild crops and animals ready for harvest by any animal in need.

The slave, feudal, capitalist, colonial and neo-colonial modes of production rendered communalism obsolete centuries ago launching land politics all the days of the year.

If the African people gave in to a colonial ban on discussions on land, we would still be colonies. We would still be waiting for the Mau Mau insurrection to save Kenyans from all the consequences that come with colonial domination.

South Africa's African National Congress, Samora Machel's Freelimo, Agostino Neto's MPLA of Angola, Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU and Mugabe's ZANU Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe would still be waiting for their moment in history if they obeyed the colonial equivalent of Kimaiyo.

Kimaiyo's call is familiar and harmonises well with mainstream history. The first independent Kenya's assassin's bullets hit 'grumblers' over land: Generals Baimunge and Chui were shot dead on January 27, 1965 in a forest in Mount Kenya by the Kenyatta administration.

The two were Kimathi's successors in the Kenya Land and Freedom Movement who had insisted that land be availed to liberation war survivors.

When Kimaiyo calls land emotive, he is telling us the side on which his sympathies are as far as the land question in Kenya is concerned.

He seems to agree with the ownership regime of beach plots by non-coastal in Nyali. Taita Taveta land inequalities should be maintained.

He is uncomfortable with the mandate of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) whose chief business is to guide national political dialogue on land with a view to addressing historical injustices.

His position at the helm of our armed law enforcers may tread in the footsteps of those who violently instructed JM Kariuki not to talk about the land question.

Worse still, he does acknowledge that the politics of this year's elections is founded on four pillars developed national leaders in partnership with the team of African Eminent Persons.

Need I itemize the Agenda Four issues which prescribe land reforms through political discussion as a panacea to national strife and violence?

The General must be aware that his appointment arose out of the desire to have a Commander who is ideologically non-partisan and embraces democratic values and culture to resolve conflicts.

There were better options. He could have called for a meeting with all presidential aspirants for dialogue on what he considers contentious rather than issue a directive that isolates those supporting the entrenchment of land reforms.

How does the position he took portent for his integrity and impartiality during the upcoming General Election? Should we brand him as one other step in the wrong direction similar to the Nancy Barasa saga in the reform trajectory? One hopes that this was a slip of the brain and an apology is being processed for quick delivery.

One man's story tells it all. Bildad Kaggia rejected 300 acres offered to him by Jomo Kenyatta. He told Kenyatta that he would only take the land if all his constituents were offered the same number of acres.

At a public rally where Kaggia was seated, Kenyatta spoke something like this "Its three years into our independence. Now Paul Ngei has developed estates for himself, Kaggia what do you have for yourself?

We were with Kungu Karumba in prison, now he has huge tracks of land and coffee estates. Kaggia what do you have for yourself. We were with Fred Kubai in prison, now he has ....Kaggia what do you have for yourself?"

When the late Ntai wa Nkuraru and I visited Kaggia in 1998, he told us that he stood up and approached Kenyatta on the dais and asked him to give him a chance to respond to the land question but Kenyatta declined telling him to "organize your own rally".

Kaggia was subsequently thrown out of parliament and jailed for addressing an illegal meeting in Homa Bay. Kaggia was forced into retirement never to get a public forum to challenge the Kenyatta gag on land as a national agenda item. Every time I hear Raila Odinga speak on Land, I know he does it for Bildad Kaggia who did not live long enough to enjoy current freedoms.

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