Recent events characterising political feuds in Kenya are no less or more than the umanamba at the bus stops. The political class appears not to have any subjective prescription to the problems afflicting Kenyans, other than ethnicity. Politics to them is maintenance of public order, repression of the non-propertied Kenyans and dependency on foreign investments and interests. In sum, the mode of politics in which the state is reduced to is mere apparatuses — the police, the army, intelligence services and the presidency. such a case is what developed as war lordism in Somalia. Its Kenyan variant is tribal lordism. In these instances, democracy is about improving the rules of wealth accumulation — making them fairer to other tribal lords. Those opposed to opening up the arena of accumulation to others make war cries in their tribal rallies.
State power in this context is the instrument of accumulation of wealth besides corruption. The latter is the key means of sustaining political patronage via court politics, sycophancy and factions. Public control and accountability of the state is anathema to such a scenario. In turn a political leadership that derives its occupation of the state.
“Its our turn to eat/enjoy” seems to be the political calculation. Ultimately, this type of politics divides more than before.
Who are manambas?
The Manamba are sometimes called Makanga (especially in Kikuyuland). It appears that Makanga were the official colonial government hooligans, drawn from the fringes of society, who dressed up in khangas (otherwise they would be totally devoid of dress). Hence the name. Invented in the early thirties, their remit was to bully rural 'natives' on behalf of the colonial officials and government.
Makanga and Manamba probably have different origins but seem to have gradually fused into one phenomenon. In the Kenya colony, they were eventually formalised and 'legitimised as Tribal Police, and were also known as Askari Kanga. Their training was shabby. Their recruitment a scandal, often winners at shabby x-country races or letter from“Mkubwa”. In independent Kenya they were retained, under the name Administration Police as ground level enforcers of the controversial Chief’s Authority Act.
The Act was an unpopular colonial policy designed to shield the British government from its responsibility for the illegality of the colonial government. By the nature of their deployment in Nairobi and in the provincial and district headquarters, a Makanga vacuum was created in the urban backwaters.
The re-emergence of the KanuYouth Wing in the late 70s seems to have filled the gap left by an increasingly sophisticated AP. The AP were too well-dressed (a handsome co-ordinate of cream and maroon); and a rather pretty image in Nairobi as "security of government offices". They did not live in the slums, or even garrisons. Makanga socialised in lumpen style to be able to carry out the task of terrorizing the populace. They cannot operate effectively under scrutiny. That probably explains why the AP were under close scrutiny for their notorious trigger-happy escapades around the country, including the killing an MP, a Manandu, and the deadly shooting of the Finnish schoolgirl whom a pair of AP's on the beat found guilty of urinating by the roadside.
The 'Manamba proper', on the other hand, were bred in the bus stops (Nairobi, Kisumu, Kitale, Bungoma, Eldoret, Nakuru, Thika, etc ) starting as small time travel agents. The next main wave of Manamba emerged in the late 70s in the form of a variant of the earlier lot. These were the clearing and forwarding agents who ran offices from within expensive but battered attache cases. This lot still choke the Freight Terminal at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and Kilindini Harbour. This category have gradually spread to government offices in the 80s and virtually taken over. They are so powerful that they have had virtual control over the public sector since 1982.
It is in the formal public sector that the Makanga and Manamba fused. In the process new varieties of Swahili and English emerged. The new Swahili dialect drew from the combined 'simplified' codes of the police canteen, of the military garrison and of the bus stop Manamba. (Hii mutu nakaa mbaya. Nakaa kama suspect!). The language exploded into the 'general public' in the weeks and months following the August 1, 1982 riot by the air force soldiers. The Makanga-Manamba appeared on both sides of that conflict. The victors wielded enormous power in that period.
Manamba are easily recognisable because they are very fashion conscious (dress, cars, homes etc.) Their living rooms are 'dark with things'. They are conspicuous cultural imitators. When the first Manamba imports the Peugeot 806 the rest will not only be talking about it but they will also be importing their own in the same colour. YK92 was a perfect example of a Manamba Yuppie outfit, and their car was invariably a white Mercedes Benz, or a crimson Peugeot 604. The Lillian Towers would be their kind of joint; and South Africa or Dubai their singular and ultimate overseas destination.
In Kenya they run the show be it in private or public service. They are in control are sleek and misleading. 'For them, anything goes, so long as the Dollars, Pounds and Yens keep -a -rolling.
The Manamba are manipulating and distorting the value systems of the pre-colonial and colonial societies; and then combining this with the post-cold-war materialist ideology to empower themselves. If they are not stopped now they will bring about an unprecedented catastrophe in this country. They are the social base of warlord politicians for whom politics is the state reduced to repressive apparatuses with no subjective prescription to the problems of the large masses of Kenyan peoples. Kenyans must resist such a state.