NEWS EXTRA Coalitions have always been part of Kenya's politics Story by HILARY NG’WENO Publication Date: 11/19/2007.
Kenya goes to the elections on December 27.
The Making of a Nation series, written by veteran journalist and publisher HILARY NG’WENO, and co-produced with Nation Media Group, which will air on NTV and run in Daily Nation, is a year-long project examining the tensions and forces that make Kenya what it is. Coming as they do in the midst of a hotly contested election, they provide a rare opportunity to plot the political evolution of Kenya.
Over the past decade or so Kenya’s politics has been dominated by coalitions, the most recent being the Party for National Unity on whose ticket President Mwai Kibaki is seeking re-election. But from the very beginning, there have always been political coalitions of one form or another.
When in 1957 African members of the Legislative Council set up the Elected African Members Organisation (EAMO) they were essentially entering into a coalition that would make it easier for them to achieve their common objective – bringing an end to British colonial rule and thereby establishing a free and independent nation ruled by the African majority. Among the EAMO leaders were Tom Mboya, Ronald Ngala, Oginga Odinga, Daniel arap Moi, Masinde Muliro, Julius Kiano, Taita Toweett, Justus ole Tipis and Jeremiah Nyagah.
These men represented a nationalist cause, but they also represented the interests of the different regions of the country that had elected them to the Legco, interests they were willing to merge into a greater common good.
What is often forgotten is that they each had their own individuals ambitions, and being politicians the most important of those ambitions was the exercise of power or at the very least a share in the that exercise.
Under a unified EAMO, African Legco leaders engaged the British government in a series of constitutional conferences at Lancaster House, London, which charted out a path to Kenya’s Independence. The January 1960 conference held under the chairmanship of then British Colonial Secretary Ian McLeod increased the number of Africans in the Legco from 14 to 33, out of a total of 65 members. It gave Africans four seats in what would initially be a caretaker government, as opposed to three for Europeans. And it provided for a common electoral roll, doing away with the limited electoral franchise system that had hitherto brought Africans into the Legco. Independence was now a matter of when and how, rather than if As is often the case with coalitions, fissures within the EAMO began to emerge as the common objective of Independence drew near. The new divisions among African leaders have often been blamed on the machinations of white settlers still anxious to hang on to power in Kenya, but that is at best simplistic. At worst, it is an affront to the intelligence and moral integrity of the African leaders of the time.
Barely four months after coming back from Lancaster with the McLeod constitution, African leaders were busy doing what any right-minded politician would do, positioning themselves for a place in the country’s future power structure. They had all agreed that at the head of that structure would be Jomo Kenyatta then still being held in detention by the colonial government for his part in the Mau Mau freedom struggle. Where everyone else would fit in the new dispensation was now a matter of primary concern to the individual leaders.
On May 14, 1960 African leaders meeting at Kiambu formed the Kenya African National Union (Kanu). To head the new party as a stand-in for the still to be freed Kenyatta was Mr James Gichuru, Mr Odinga, Mboya (secretary general), Mr Ngala (treasurer) and Mr Moi (vice treasurer). Mr Moi and Mr Ngala were out of the country at the time. On returning home, they declined to take up their posts and instead, at a meeting in Ngong on May 25, set up a rival party – the Kenya African Democratic Party (Kadu) under Mr Ngala’s leadership.
The reason Kadu leaders gave for setting up a rival party was that Kanu was dominated by the big tribes – the Kikuyu and the Luo. In Kadu, they would take care of the interests of the smaller tribes, the Kalenjin and Maasai of the Rift Valley, the Luhya of Western Province, the Mijikenda at the Coast. They probably were sincere in invoking ethnic interests as the main reason for setting up Kadu. But in addition to the ethnic interests, there were simple but pragmatic personal political considerations at play.
As Kenya moved towards independence, the field was getting crowded at the top political ladder. Originally, with Kikuyu leaders banned from taking part in politics, national politics had been a preserve of non-Kikuyus such as Mr Mboya, Mr Odinga, Mr Ngala, Mr Moi and Mr Muliro. Then with the end of the state of emergency in 1956 the ban had been lifted. Dr Kiano had joined the EAMO. By the time Kanu was formed, there were many other Kikuyu heavyweights in politics, men such as Dr Njoroge Mungai, who had just returned form Stanford University with a degree in medicine. Soon Kenyatta would be free, and with him would come others with strong claims to the high places in the new political patheon – among them the men tried with Kenyatta at Kapenguria at the start of the Emergency in 1952 – Mr Bildad Kaggia, Mr Achieng Oneko, Mr Kungu Karumba, Mr Fred Kubai and Mr Paul Ngei.
Mr Ngala, Mr Muliro, Mr Moi, Mr Tipis, Dr Towett and their colleagues went off on their own not because they were manipulated by white settlers, or even because, they were trying to do what they claimed they were trying to do – take of the interests of their ethnic constituencies. Like their counterparts in Kanu, they were men of ambition who wanted to exercise power and they saw in Kadu a reliable vehicle to the exercise of political power.
Gamble did not pay off.
In the end, their gamble did not pay off. In the post-McLeod general election of February 1961 called to prepare Kenya for self-government, Kanu won 19 and Kadu 11 of the seats earmarked for Africans in the new constitution.
Mzee Kenyatta was released on August 14 that year and for a while tried to reconcile the two parties. But when he failed, he accepted the presidency of Kanu from which Mr Gichuru now stepped down. Kenyatta was a nationalist, but he was a consummate politician as well. For him, the choice between Kanu and Kadu was clear. The latter simply did not have the kind of majority support Kanu enjoyed. To choose Kadu would have been the height of political folly.
Kadu leaders did come up with an answer to the challenge they now faced from Kanu under Mzee Kenyatta’s leadership. With the support of the new British Colonial Secretary Reginald Maudling and white settlers they pushed for a federal political system of government for independent Kenya. A compromise “majimbo” system was eventually adopted at the February 1962 Lancaster constitutional conference, setting up a bicameral legislature and six regional assemblies with entrenched rights but no financial powers. It was not an arrangement that Kanu was particularly happy about, but as Odinga said afterwards: “We might be been forced to accept a constitution we did not want, but once we had the government, we could change the constitution.”
On the face of it Majimbo was about protecting the interests of smaller tribes against the bigger communities, but for Kadu leaders it was also a way of ensuring that they too exercised political power in the regions since the country’s population distribution appeared to condemn them to perpetual seats in the opposition.
They were not alone in seeking space within a coalition arrangement for their personal ambitions to flourish. Mr Ngei had joined Kanu on being released from detention. Like Kadu leaders, he too was an ambitious politician. He too sought a prominent place for himself within the country’s new political edifice. He could find none. So he went off on his own, forming in November 1962 a new party – the African Peoples Party - which he thought would propel him to some form of power he did not then think he could exercise if he remained under the same roof as Mzee Kenyatta, Mr Mboya, Mr Odinga and Mr Gichuru.
In the May 1963 General Election that led to independence, Kanu won 83 out of 124 seats, signalling an end to the original coalition of interests for which the EAMO leaders had stood. Later, new coalitions would come and go, but the interests of ambitious political leaders would remain, and through the interplay of those interests the history of independent Kenya would be shaped.
Mboya up against Kenyatta’s tough inner circle Story by HILARY NG’WENO Publication Date: 12/3/2007.
There had always been the question of What next after Kenyatta? Or rather, Who after Kenyatta? writes HILARY NG’WENO in today’s instalment of ‘The Making of a Nation’.
President Jomo Kenyatta’s closest ministers, the inner circle made up of Koinange, Njonjo and Mungai, and sometimes James Gichuru and Julius Kiano, had been concerned at first about Oginga Odinga, the country’s first Vice President. Odinga had charisma, nearly as much as Kenyatta; he was a man of the people, and he was a fighter, like Kenyatta.
The inner circle, or the Gatundu Group, as they were sometimes referred to, worried about Odinga taking over from Kenyatta, should the old man die or become incapacitated.
With Odinga safely out of the way after he had been forced out of the ruling party, the Kenya African National Union (Kanu) and into the opposition Kenya Peoples Union in 1966, Kenyatta’s inner group now worried about Tom Mboya, the Minister for Economic Planning and Kanu’s powerful secretary general. The prospects of Mboya stepping into Kenyatta’s shoes became an obsession for them. Part of their concern had to do with ethnic considerations.
They were determined to ensure that the presidency, and its now enormous powers, did not slip from the grasp of the Kikuyu, and most certainly not into Mboya’s hands.
They feared Mboya because of his frightful intelligence and his organisational skills. But there was more than fear involved. There was resentment. However intelligent, however astute a politician, academically Mboya was simply not the equal of any of the three top men in Kenyatta’s inner circle.
Koinange, senior most of the circle, was a person with outstanding academic and social credentials. Born in 1907 to Senior Chief Koinange wa Mbiyu, Koinange was sent to the US for education when he was barely 20, becoming the first Kenyan African to be educated in the US.
He first attended Hampton College in West Virginia, then the University of Columbia where he received a BA degree. He proceeded to the University of London and got a diploma from the university’s Institute of Education before moving on to the London School of Economics from which he obtained a Masters degree in 1948-the first Kenyan to get an MA.
On coming back home the following year he set up the Kenya Teachers College at Githunguri and managed it until 1946 when he turned it over to Kenyatta who had just come back after nearly 15 years in England and Europe. The two men had known each other in England and had kept in touch while they were separated.
Now a strong bond developed between them, becoming even stronger when Kenyatta took for his second wife, Grace Mitundu, Koinange’s younger sister. In 1947 Koinange would return to England for further studies but was prevented from returning to Kenya by the outbreak of the Mau Mau rebellion and the declaration of a state of emergency in 1952.
In exile, Koinange expanded his political activities to embrace Pan African gatherings and demonstrations in England. He made contact with Kwame Nkrumah who after Ghana’s independence invited him to work at the newly set up Bureau of African Affairs in Accra.
It was from Accra that Koinange was invited by KANU and KADU leaders meeting in London at the first Lancaster House constitutional conference.
The invitation was the idea of Odinga who was trying to pressurize the British government to release Kenyatta. Odinga figured that Koinange’s presence would put added pressure on the British, and it would embarrass Mboya who was then not yet as forthright about Kenyatta’s release. Koinange would come back home soon after that meeting, run for parliament and be elected as MP for Kiambaa in 1963, when Kenyatta appointed him to the Cabinet.
The second most powerful man in the triumvirate was Charles Njonjo, the Attorney General. Like Koinange, Njonjo was the son of a senior chief in the colonial government. His father Josiah Njonjo was able to send him to the best schools of the time. Alliance High School, King’s College Budo in Uganda, Fort Hare University in Cape Town and Exeter University in England where he did post graduate studies in public administration finishing in 1947.
From 1947 to 1950 he attended the London School of Economics and then studied law for four years before being admitted to the bar at Gray’s Inn, one of England’s most prestigious inns of law. His long stay in England had a tremendous influence on him; he absorbed British culture and British mannerisms, down to the wearing of striped suits and bowler hats. In later years these British mannerisms would earn him the nickname of Sir Charles.
On returning to Kenya in 1954 Njonjo joined the colonial attorney general’s office and rose quickly from being a registrar to registrar-general. In 1961 he was a senior state counsel, and one whole year before Independence he had been promoted to the powerful job of deputy public prosecutor. At Independence he was named attorney general. The following year, with Kenya’s change to Republican status, the attorney general became an ex-officio Member of Parliament as well as the cabinet.
Six years younger than Njonjo, Mungai did not have a chief or senior chief for a father, but what he lacked in genes he more than made up for in upbringing. He too went to Alliance High School, leaving in 1945. Like Njonjo he attended Fort Hare University from 1948 to 1950.
In South Africa, Mungai had his first taste of apartheid. That experience was to shape his future political views and general mistrust of white people. From South Africa Mungai proceeded to Stanford University, then, as today, one of the top universities in the world, where he obtained a BA degree in 1952 before going to Stanford Medical School, and later to further medical studies at Columbia University.
With his string of qualifications, Mungai came back to Kenya in 1959 and set up the Chania chain of clinics around the Dagoretti area of Nairobi from which he dispensed affordable medical treatment. When Kenyatta was released from detention in 1961, Mungai became his physician. But even before that, Mungai was already immersed in politics, serving as the secretary to the preparatory committee that gave birth to KANU in May 1960. It was on that committee that Mungai first worked closely with Mboya.
Kenyatta’s inner circle was therefore made up of highly educated and sophisticated men, who by dint of their birth, education and training considered themselves to be natural leaders. On that account alone, and not even on ethnic grounds, Koinange, Njonjo and Mungai for different reasons, must have found Mboya difficult to take.
Mboya was born in 1930, and was therefore four years younger than Mungai, ten years younger than Njonjo and a whole 23 years younger than Koinange.
But by the time they started interacting with him, the older men must have been awed by his enormous organisational skills, sharp intellect, and sheer determination. The awe must have given rise to a sense of resentment when in the three or four years leading to Independence, Mboya made himself almost indispensable in the general nationalist struggle.
He was by far the most articulate leader in the country. He hogged the press, both local and international, and was on the cover of TIME magazine before Independence. Then as now, making the cover of TIME was something even Americans envied.
Mboya’s energy, charisma, his organisational and tactical skills made him indispensable in the bruising battle against Odinga and the radicals within Kanu.
The man to watch.
And for some time at least Njonjo built up a close friendship with Mboya during their joint effort, at Kenyatta’s behest, to shove Odinga out of the ruling party. But Kenyatta and his top lieutenants had Odinga more or less under control. The man to watch now was Mboya.
Barely a year after forcing Odinga out of Kanu they would set about trying to do to Mboya what they had done to Odinga so successfully, except that they would now have to do their battles without or against Mboya’s enormous organisational skills, financial resources and a reputation for political fighting.
Until then Mboya had never lost any major political battle; but then, neither had Kenyatta and the men who made up his inner circle.
THE MAKING OF A NATION: Mboya's murder and the return of one-party State Story by HILLARY NG'WENO Publication Date: 12/4/2007.
HILLARY NG'WENO recounts the murder of Cabinet ministers Tom Mboya and its aftermath.
On the morning of July 5th, 1969 Tom Mboya, President Jomo Kenyatta’s Minister for Economic Planning and Kanu’s secretary general, arrived at Nairobi’s Embakasi Airport from Addis Ababa where he had been attending a meeting of the Economic Commission for Africa.
He was accompanied by his permanent secretary, Philip Ndegwa, and his brother, Alphonse Okuku Ndiege. He had dropped them off at his office, and then before 1pm went to Channi’s Pharmacy on Government, today Moi Avenue, to buy some lotion for dry skin. After chatting with Mrs Mohini Sehmi Channi for a while, Mboya stepped out of the shop.
Outside, only two or so metres from the door, was a young man in a dark suite, holding a briefcase in his left hand. His right hand was in his pocket. In a few seconds two shots rang out. Mboya slumped over. Despite efforts at mouth-to-mouth resuscitation Mboya was dead on arrival at Nairobi Hospital.
Within hours, there were riots and demonstrations in Nairobi and in towns and villages in Luoland. The experience of the KPU had given most Luo the feeling that the Kikuyu were out to deny them any position of political leadership. They had pushed Oginga Odinga out of the ruling party Kanu. Now they had killed Mboya, and Luo suspicions appeared to be confirmed when on July 10th, five days after the murder, a young Kikuyu named Nahashon Isaac Njenga Njoroge was arrested and charged with the murder.
Njenga’s trial began with a preliminary hearing on August 11th. On September 10th he was found guilty and sentenced to death. His appeal against the verdict and sentence was rejected by the East African Court of Appeal, and on November 8th, it is reported, he was hanged in secret at Kamiti Maximum Prison. There have since been reports that Njenga was in fact never hanged, that he was spirited off secretly to Ethiopia, where he lived out the rest of his life under an assumed identity. What is not in doubt, however, is that during the preliminary hearing after his arrest, Njenga had asked a senior police superintendent who testified at the trial: “Why do you pick on me? Why not the big man?” When asked who the big man was, Njenga refused to say. Who was the big man, if ever there was a big man, would remain the subject of rumour and conjecture for years.
And for good reason; the trial never established a motive for Njenga killing Mboya. Someone must have had a motive. Who that someone was has remained a subject of conjecture ever since.
Mboya’s murder shook Kenya’s politics as nothing had ever done before since Independence. The entire Luo community now closed ranks around Odinga, taking on a markedly anti-Kikuyu stance in all their utterances.
Other Kenyans were taken aback too. Doubts about Kenyatta’s government began to emerge, especially in the Coast Province and to a lesser extent in Western Province, and doubts turned into worries when reports started circulating that the Kikuyu community had taken up widespread oathing primarily aimed at ensuring their unity in the face of growing opposition to Kenyatta’s rule, particularly from the Luo.
There was enormous pressure within the Kikuyu community to close ranks around Kenyatta, just like the Luo had done around Odinga. By August, the pressure was so great that Bildad Kaggia, vice president of the KPU, and almost the entire Central Province membership of the party, were forced to rejoin the ruling party Kanu. The split between the two former senior members in the Kanu tribal coalition – the Kikuyu and the Luo – was now as complete as it could possibly be.
The situation called for some action on the part of Kenyatta who had gone uncharacteristically silent since Mboya’s death. In September, he began to summon elders from various communities to discuss the situation with him at his home in Gatundu.
Little General Election.
The next General Election would be coming soon, and he was anxious that Kanu perform in Luoland better than it did during the Little General Election against Odinga’s Kenya Peoples Union (KPU). So, in October Kenyatta set off on an electoral tour of Rift Valley and Nyanza intending to demonstrate that he was back in control of things.
On October 25th he was in Kisumu to open the Russian built hospital, which was the only Soviet, project in Kenya. Luo crowds greeted him with jeers and shouted KPU slogans at him. There were placards in the crowd asking, “Where is Tom?” Kenyatta reacted with anger. In his speech, he attacked the KPU and threatened Odinga, who was with him on the platform, with detention, calling him a “noise maker who is good for nothing”. Oppositionists, he said, would be “crushed like locusts”.
It was the crowd’s turn to be enraged. As Kenyatta’s motorcade was leaving the hospital grounds, the crowd surged towards it menacingly. The police opened fire. Seven people were killed and scores injured as Kenyatta left Kisumu hurriedly.
Two days later, on October 27th, Odinga and all other KPU leaders and MPs were arrested in a pre-dawn swoop and put into detention. Among Odinga’s associates to be placed in detention was Achieng Oneko who had been jailed and detained with Kenyatta by the British for nine years before Independence. On October 30th, the KPU was banned. Once again, Kenya had become a de-facto one-party state.
The new one party state was different from the one that came into existence in December 1964 when the Kenya African Democratic Union (Kadu), dissolved itself and its members joined Kanu. Then there had been some effort at building national unity that if it did not quite negate ethnic boundaries at least operated on the basis of a coalition of all tribes.
Pretense of a coalition.
Now, there was one major community outside the one ruling party, and in that party, there was no pretense of a coalition any more. After his ugly experience in Kisumu, Kenyatta was in no mood for sharing any power; the inner circle around him encouraged him into believing that no coalitions of any kind were needed any more.
On the 6th December 1969, Kanu held its primary elections. In the absence of any other party, these primary elections amounted to the final general elections. The results surprised many. Even in a one party state, it seemed, those in control of Kanu were powerless against a public who had become disgruntled by the goings on of the previous two or three years. Seventy-seven sitting MPs out of a total of 158 – almost fully one half – lost to newcomers.
Of interest and serious implications to Nyanza and Western Province, was the fact among them were four of the five defeated ministers, and nine of the fourteen defeated assistant ministers. Most of them were Mboya’s political allies: Odero-Jowi and Samuel Ayodo in Luoland; Lawrence Sagini in Kisii and Joseph Otiende in Western Province.
But among the losers too was Bildad Kaggia. Just as the voters in Luoland had not forgiven anyone who had sided with the Kikuyu’s, and Mboya’s allies in Luoland were so perceived, similarly kikuyu voters were in no mood for forgiveness towards anyone who had sided with forces they perceived to be under the control of the Luo. Kaggia, though he had recanted and rejoined Kanu, was not about to receive forgiveness from Murang’a voters. He was handsomely defeated by Thaddeus Mwaura who had defeated him at the Little General Election.
Kaggia would thereafter retire from politics to live a simple and frugal life, almost forgotten by generations of Kenyan leaders who were born long after Kaggia’s battles with the British and Kenyatta governments were over.
He died in 2006 and was buried in his beloved Murang’a where the government later built a mausoleum in his memory and that of hundreds and thousands of freedom fighters like him who had given their all in the cause of Kenya’s Independence.