Wednesday, January 09, 2008


We are now taking stock. Over 1,000 people might have been killed in the violence that gripped Kenya after elections, over 300,000 people are displaced both within and without the country.

Ease seems to return but the recent announcement of a partial cabinet by Kibaki and possible failure of AU-brokered talks means Kenya is far from peaceful.

Now, away from the political sentiments that gripped all of us, depending on what side we sat, we need to do a post-mortem on what exactly took Kenya down that path. We know that few African countries conduct fool-proof elections. We know that many African regimes lack legitimacy to rule but they go ahead and rule.

So, why did Kenya get caught up in this flame? Are the Kenyans more patriotic than other Africans? Are they the most sensitive that any form of electoral malpractice would yield the bloodshed it did?

Obviously not. So, why did we see youth, living in slums hold matchetes and clubs and maul each other? why did we see young men, with good command of English (telling from the TV interviews) decide to burn and loot shops and other institutions?

The answer in my understanding is; they are a lot of young people frustrated by unfair economic state policies, who seem to be losing hope in existence. They are a group of young people, who perceive themselves as already dead, and physical death will mean nothing to them. That is why, unlike the middle class, which most likely had voted for Raila also, these depressed youth took to the streets, ready to confront security forces and if possible get killed.

In subsequent accusations between the warring parties, PNU accused ODM of masterminding a genocide and terrorism. I beg to disagree on the genocide bit but fully agree on the terrorism accusation.

What is terrorism anyway: An American general described terrorism as the war of the poor against the rich, while war is the terrorism of the rich against the poor.

What we saw on the streets of Nairobi was indeed, a war of the poor against the rich. What we saw was a statement of discontent by the 57% of Kenyans who live on less than one dollar a day. The blood-thirsty youth we saw are no hoodlums. Many of them are Form Four leavers, who have failed to gain access to colleges. Some maybe graduates, who with the unflexible economic systems that favour those who already have, are confined to the misery of slums. They try to make a living the hard way. The education system has shaped them to reject rural life and have moved to urban areas, living in constant hope of a miracle happening and things getting better. Problem is---the miracle like the parousia, seems nowhere in sight.

It is such a lot of youth who are a time-bomb. They are ready to die for someone (like Raila) who promises them heaven when they get to power. To such youth, the State has failed them. That is why they will raze houses, they know they will never build. That is why they will loot property they have only afforded in dreams. That is why they will walk in the face of bullets, knowing their lives are as good as absent.

Two things though: Is Kenya the only African state with this growing class of frustrated youth?

Secondly, is it true that we are short of resources to ensure equity in our societies?

1 comment:

JJACKMAN said...

The answer to your first question is no. Youth, I believe, are ready to revolt at any cost throughout Africa if it comes down to it and Uganda is of no exception. As I mentioned in my last blog there is a heirarchy of needs and if they are not being met then people become desperate and will not focus on "petty" things such as not being violent. People are willing and ready to do anything at any cost if it opens up the slightest possibility of a new life.