Raila, Choose The Future Or Remain In The Past
For one month now, we have been subjected to scenes of wanton desecration of Prof. Wangari Maathai’s legacy. While many Kenyans and world leaders have genuinely expressed grief at the untimely passing of our only Nobel laureate, a significant number of our politicians – including at the highest level of the state - have been grovelling in hypocritical supplication. They have waxed lyrical over the second liberation struggle and environmental conservation. Where were their loud voices before Prof. Maathai’s demise?
Kenyans are tired of empty platitudes. Prof. Maathai has suddenly become – in death - a bosom buddy and a comrade in arms of these pathetic hypocrites. What kind of struggle have these shameless chameleons been recently involved in? Has it been in grand corruption and primitive accumulation of wealth?
Have they been struggling to win the Nobel Prize for spinelessness? Have these cowardly politicians forgotten that Kenyans have been watching their lecherous, kleptomaniac ways keenly?
David Makali’s timely article, “PM Playing Politics With Mau Evictees” (Star, October 5th)–– asked three pertinent questions in response to Raila Odinga’s recent formation of yet another committee on Mau Forest restoration: “How will Raila resist the pressure to roll back the Mau restoration programme that has for all intents and purposes stalled? What happened to Phase Three and Four of the Mau restoration process? Why has Hassan Noor’s Mau secretariat gone quiet all of a sudden?”
Excellent questions that will not be answered any time soon. A convenient and predictable “denial” of Gideon Moi’s appointment was published soon thereafter. Incredibly, Moi senior defended his son’s ‘appointment,’ claiming that as “a Kenyan, Gideon has a right to any state appointment.’ Please! Give us another one.
Raila is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya; not of ODM or the Rift Valley. Why then did he establish a committee of Rift Valley politicians? Mau is a national treasure; not a political or a regional tool. It traverses areas occupied by various Kenyan communities. If there was need (which there wasn’t) for another committee, it should have been national in character. But more profoundly, we are sick and tired of this ‘governance through crisis and committees!’ We endured it during Moi’s twenty-four years’ reign of terror. With the enactment of the new constitution, the long suffering citizens of this country cannot and must not tolerate it any longer.
Most politicians are good at talking; not conservation. They are busy talking about space technology and genetically engineered foods when we can’t feed, quench the thirst, shelter, educate and provide employment for all our people. We can’t even manufacture bicycles and pins. So, why did Raila form this politically myopic committee? Why now?
Inexplicably – and despite the denials - the committee is chaired by Gideon Moi. That’s former President Daniel arap Moi’s son. So Moi is supposed to preside over the resettlement of peasants evicted from the Mau forest? Essentially, the worst forest encroacher and desecrater will now preside over phases three and four of the Mau restoration exercise. These phases cover medium and large land-holders within the water tower.
Raila - a latter-day conservationist - who has recently been traversing the globe over green energy and environmental conservation, wants Moi – reputed as the worst land-grabber and environmental degrader in Kenya – to be in charge of the Mau conservation? How legitimate is that exercise or is the Mau conservation all about politics as usual?
Moi owns the expansive Kiptagich farms, including the huge Kiptagich tea factory, both lodged deep inside the Mau. These farms comprise of tens of thousands of hectares of public land. Moi alone destroyed forest cover equivalent to the size of Nyanza province purely out of greed. Does any sensible person expect him to target the Kiptagich estate for repossession?
Please, tell that to the wind!
The tens of thousands of farms in the Mau forest were irregularly allocated during Moi’s 24-year reign when the boundary between public assets and private property was indistinguishable. Moi and his cronies didn’t purchase the land. The farms were established, equipped and maintained using public resources. Our collective loses have been the primary reason for their individual gains!
So, why is Raila undermining the crucial conservation effort; a process he proudly started and claimed he was ready to sacrifice his political ambitions on?
For more than thirty years, the rich oligarchs of Mau Forest have been living off our national treasures and sweat. The billions of shillings the Mau oligarchs have been extracting from our land haven’t trickled down to us, poor mortals. They have amassed tidy private portfolios both locally and abroad.
When Prof. Maathai was busy planting trees, saving our forests and suffering indignity and barbaric public whipping, ridicule and incarceration by Moi’s goons; the former president and his coterie were gorging themselves of public assets. Mau was their crown jewel.
When Prof. Maathai was desperately defending public forests from wanton desecration; most of those who were shedding crocodile tears at her funeral and memorial service were Moi’s bosom buddies. They were either silent or complicit when Mau was being destroyed and other public assets were being pillaged.
While Prof. Wangari used her bare hands and fragile body against the massive and ferocious power of the Moi regime; most of these hypocritical politicians couldn’t gather courage to oppose Moi’s rapacious tendencies.
Yes, Moi detained Raila for years for allegedly being part of the 1982 aborted coup attempt. However, the problem for many of us is Raila’s obvious desperation to appease Moi as part of a misguided strategy to woo the Kalenjin votes, which he believes (rightly or wrongly) that his erstwhile friend William Ruto has scattered. But the politics of deception and chicanery will not work. It has run its course.
Kalenjins - like other Kenyans - will and can only be won over by concrete issues, a progressive vision, a practical agenda and genuine commitment for their welfare. Personal ambitions and the blind pursuit of political power, even if clothed in patriotic and nationalistic garb, cannot be the solution. Nor can they be pursued at any price.
When thousands of poor forest encroachers were evicted from the Mau about two years ago, many Kenyans shuddered. I personally advised against the uncaring, poorly thought-out and uncoordinated evictions. I strongly urged that alternative land and funds be found for their humane relocation and compensation. I reminded Raila to be conscious of the fact that most of the evictees voted for him in 2007 and that they would take great offense at their humiliation.
Similarly, I expressed concern that only poor peasants were being targeted for eviction while wealthy oligarchs who had destroyed large swaths of the forest were left undisturbed. Well, I was overruled. The then special programs permanent secretary, Mohamed Ali Daud, was the only lone voice in my support. Lands minister James Orengo was mute – as usual - having recently transformed himself into the most lyrical sycophant at the King’s Court.
Raila insisted that the poor peasants were “criminal encroachers on government land; that compensating them would encourage such criminal tendencies.” Happily, history has now registered a verdict on our respective positions.
Two years on, the poor evictees are still homeless, scavenging like wild animals. They live under deplorable conditions. Yet, Moi’s vast estate located deep inside Mau remains intact. As Makali asked: why haven’t phases three and four of the Mau restoration been implemented? Why were the homeless peasants evicted from the forest when the rich oligarchs are now presiding over their own cases? Is this fair and just? Is it legal and constitutional? Where is the CIC when we need it?
Meanwhile, the ‘Kalenjin rebellion’ within ODM took a life of its own, precipitating Raila’s latest desperate move. Like most desperate moves, it won’t work. The Gideon Moi Committee isn’t legitimate. Nor is Orengo’s newly found voice. Both are instruments of the old order. There was no committee when the peasants were being evicted. There isn’t need for one now; unless, of course, the whole resettlement exercise is nothing but political chicanery.
Genuine conservation needs focus and clear vision; not political subterfuge, deception and manipulation. William Ruto and his KKK battalion tried such trickery and failed miserably. Remember the ‘historic’ Panafric Hotel fundraiser? This latest Raila trick is from the old Kanu/Moi hat. It, too, will also go nowhere.
A committee composed of land grabbers and partisan political interests is neither creative nor strategic. It’s irredeemably myopic. Moi represents our dark retrogressive past; not its future. Moi encapsulates the culture of impunity, primitive accumulation and wanton environmental destruction. That’s not Prof. Maathai’s legacy. Raila must make a choice: either embrace the future or be consigned to the past - forever. There is no in-between.
Mr. Miguna an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. He is also a Barrister and Solicitor in Canada.