Restructuring should be anchored on creative industrialisation and create jobs, argues Okello Oculi
In December 2007 Kenya was pregnant with violence. As a researcher for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), I heard taxi drivers, religious worshipers, civil society activists, academics and African diplomats and members of opposition parties in several African countries residing in Kenya all feared that violence would follow the impending general elections.
Church leaders and ambassadors of European Union countries and the United States of America held meetings with media practitioners, leaders of ethnic associations, academics and public intellectuals to plead for rains on smoking embers of political violence. Nothing seemed to be working.
Incumbent President Mwai Kibaki had escaped death by ‘’accidenting’’, namely: government agents killing an opponent by involving the victim in a car accident. When a leader from the Indian Ocean coastline, Ronald Ngala, was killed it was claimed that a swarm of bees rushed into his speeding car on a flat and straight road from Nairobi to Mombasa, and stung him to death. The public, as they say, ‘’laughed to cry’’.
Kibaki, a brilliant graduate in economics from Makerere and the London School of Economics, had been drawn from his university teaching job to organize the Kenya African National Union (KANU). From Kenya’s independence he held ministerial positions in business and economic planning, becoming Moi’s Vice-President until 2002 when he was elected president. Coming after Arap Moi’s brutal treatment of critics, he had opened the sky to intellectual discourse, including criticizing him personally.
He had known that the powers behind the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were not interested in Kenya’s development. Consequently, he turned to China for investment in infrastructure. The new 800 km railway line from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi; various roads to important agricultural zones, and a fly-over to end routine traffic jams in Nairobi, were constructed with loans from China. He supported loans to thousands of SMSEs.
Despite these positive measures, I found it intriguing that Raila Odinga focused his campaign speech, at a huge rally in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, that Kibaki must leave office after one term in office because he was 70 years old. There was no commendation offered. When at a lunch in a busy spot near Nation House I raised this matter, my host urged me to lower my voice before supporters of Odinga broke my teeth. My eulogizing Kibaki as former teacher at my old university was also an irritant.
What infuriated his critics was the monopoly of the power of the PRESIDENCY by the troika of Kikuyu, Embu and Meru ethnic elites. They controlled awards of contracts awarded by government ministries and agencies; put their ethnic kin in charge of tenders, and excluded graduates from other ethnic groups from government jobs and private businesses nurtured by government contracts. Moreover, officials carried on business in their languages, thereby pouring salt and pepper over wounds of unemployment.
That was the petrol pool waiting to be ignited by the impending results of the 2007 presidential election. When the final tally of ballots at Kenyatta House was interrupted by protests by opposition agents; and done so on live radio and television broadcasts, anti-Kikuyu violence erupted in the provinces.
The problem was that wealth was being grabbed through ‘’primitive accumulation’’ – without using labour to produce goods for a market- but NOT injected into agricultural production; processing agricultural products, and industrialization for inventing and manufacturing machines that produce more machines. That meant that stolen wealth was not demanding millions of workers and purchasing power from millions of consumers.
This kind of wealth was insecure and needed to be protected by hiring thugs and murderers of critics and challengers. This characteristic of this wealth was responsible for the naked violence by security personnel on those who rejected election results. The absence of jobs and sources of subsistence made protesters equally murderous; thereby moving the country towards a civil war.
In 2010, President Kibaki supported a referendum which affirmed the dispersal of centres for awarding contracts from the Presidency to 47 counties; each with an executive led by a Governor. The process is called ‘’DECENTRALIZATION’’ of power. Professor Peter Anyang Nyong’o noted, in 2015, that the 47 counties became more centres for ‘’primitive accumulation’’ by governors, their staff and inner-party allies.
In Britain, Brazil and Kenya primitive accumulation drove millions of people from their land. In Nigeria the violence in soya beans producing areas and open grazing zones; oil theft from pipelines follows this pattern. Unlike Nigeria, in Brazil and Britain such wealth supported native capitalist industrialization.
Wealth based on new productivity deepened mass poverty; and violent protests over wages. The unemployed were deported to the Americas, Australia and Africa. African genius must invent AFRICANISED industrialization and combat current theft of human resources.
‘’Restructuring’’/’’decentralisation’’ must anchor creative industrialization; and create jobs.
Prof Oculi writes from Abuja