MUTUNGA: Let's brace ourselves for yet another multi-party dictatorship

Multi-Party dictatorships can be traced back to 1964

In Summary
  • KPU’s Manifesto, the Wananchi Declaration, remains a beacon of leftist politics in Kenya.
  • No other opposition political party since then has been ideologically and politically as clear.
Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga
Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga
Image: FILE

At Independence, the major political parties were Kenya African National Union, Kenya African Democratic Union, and African Peoples Party.

A party of liberal white settlers named the New Kenya Group, teamed up with KADU during the independence negotiations. KANU won the elections in 1963 and formed the first independent government.

As Kenya celebrated its second year of independence we had our first multi-racial, multi-ethnic dictatorship politically dominated by the right wing in KANU.

Indeed, Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o has correctly argued that this dictatorship weakened the nationalist and anti-colonial political forces, and resulted in the eventual formation of a radical opposition party, the Kenya Peoples Union led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Bildad Kaggia, and Pio Gama Pinto.

KPU’s Manifesto, the Wananchi Declaration, remains a beacon of leftist politics in Kenya.

No other opposition political party since then has been ideologically and politically as clear.

The various factions in the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (FORD) and the Democratic Party of Kenya are evidence of this failure.

Maybe the formation of the Kenya Socialist Alliance (KASA) by Jaramogi and George Anyona just before the amendment of Section 2A of the Constitution, declaring KANU a dejure one-party dictatorship in Kenya in 1982, could have reignited the KPU’s ideological and political spark.

The detention of Anyona, and the placing Jaramogi under house arrest by the KANU-Moi dictatorship, nipped KASA’s ideological and political hopes in the bud.

Kenya has always nurtured vibrant people’s resistance movements

History records these vibrant people’s resistance movements through our colonial and post-colonial history.

These movements have invariably had nationalist and patriotic consciousness.

Some have also had this consciousness invariably dented by political parties that have been bent on politics of ethnicity and monetization.

These movements have been underground and above ground.

The most radical or revolutionary movement in our history has been the Mau Mau Movement for Liberation which birthed the Mau Mau Land and Freedom Army.

The colonial labour movement led by Makhan Singh had hallmarks of radical and revolutionary purpose.

Such movements as the December Twelfth Movement and Mwakenya operated underground, and indeed, other Kenyan movements did so abroad.

This dialectic of underground and above-ground social movements is an important ideological and political phenomenon in Kenya.

What has been remarkable is how the radical ideological and political purpose of such movements has been mortally weakened by their above-ground struggles.

The weakening of these movements has had a lot to do with the capture of their leadership by political parties that end up subverting their radical political struggles.

I believe the recent example, that did not fully succeed, was the capture of one faction of the Communist Party of Kenya by Kenya Kwanza.

What is now undeniable is the quest for the formation of robust radical political parties that are opposed to politics of ethnicity and monetization spearheaded by the Kenyan elite.

Concomitant with this development of these alternative political parties are the growth and development of social movements that have the same ideology and politics.

What is also important is that these twin developments are spearheaded by the youth of Kenya that is committed to the politics of their material interests.

The COVID pandemic exposed them to the need to build on the politics of transformation that reflects the constitutional values of national unity, national interest, and the primacy of Kenya’s sovereign power in all societal matters.

In a nutshell, this is the existence of the growth of alternative political leadership anchored upon radical social movements.

We may say this formation is on the horizon, or deny it exists, but in my books, it is worth a great celebration.

It will have to be consistently and continuously vigilant against the genius of the continued elite politics in occupying the entire political space through intimidation, bribery, ethnicity, the dangling of short-term concessions, and other murderous political baits for any radical movements and political parties in Kenya.

There are great lessons to be learned and political mistakes to be never repeated.

The State of the Nation

The scenario I have given here is what is going to be the ultimate struggle for the promise of democracy in Kenya which has been betrayed again and yet again.

It is a struggle that is initially going to be fought in the many sites of the struggle in the implementation of our progressive 2010 Constitution: land, human rights and social justice, sovereign debts, foreign interests, integrity and independence of institutions (including political parties), integrity in political leadership, a foreign policy that is informed by our national interests, radical PanAfricanism, and a vision of a planet that is anti-status quo.

The Kenyan elite is unable to be such a political leader.

Its complete failure to lead the country to progress, national unity, peace, security, incorruptibility, and its many other national political viruses are borne by evidence that spans almost 60 years. Indeed, this is  the state of our nation.

Our State of the Nation does not exist in a vacuum

Our state of the nation, and indeed of our continent, exists in a global context that shows the potential of the collapse of the unipolar planet reflected in currency wars, dying and rising empires, the potential of World War 3, and the development of a multi-polar planet that may continue to focus on the recolonization of Africa for its resources.

The crisis of elite leadership in Africa is a great tragedy for the continent.

This is the time to resurrect the politics of the leadership of Amilcar Cabral, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Muammar Gaddafi, and Thomas Sankara which gave us hope and a glimpse of African unity and liberation.

We are also lucky that Global Africa is alive and well in its commitment to the realization of A New Global Africa.

The writer was the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court, 2011-2016.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star