By George Biruri.
Kenyans have gained a lot from the opposition, but they give them less credit and appreciation!. Recently, Architect Prof. Alfred Omenya made a profound observation. He said that Kenyans have a peculiar behavior of celebrating the person who “won” irrespective of how he ” won”, and punishing the person who ” lost” irrespective of how he “lost.”
Kenyans have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the fruits brought by the opposition, but they do not recognize and respect them.
The pre-independence opposition from Giriama, Gusii, Nandi, Maasai rebellions and the MAU MAU gave us the first fruit : land, rights and freedoms!
Kenya did not recognize them. Infact the MAU MAU continued to be recognized as legally banned until 2003. Majority of the MAU MAU did not get land and jobs. Today, they and their families continue to wallow in abject poverty. The painful irony is that those who collaborated with the colonial government enjoyed the fruits of independence. Today the children of the collaborators control not only the government, but also the economy!
The opposition KADU through their efforts ensured that the rights of the regions are respected. Unfortunately, they later joined KANU, which amended the constitution and centralized power, administration and services at the center. The regions became neglected and marginalized. The seeds of unequal development of different parts of Kenya were planted then.
The Kenya Peoples Union (KPU), raised the first alarm and warned Kenyans that the Government had betrayed them and had deviated from the course. They exposed the Government’s evils of engagement and promotion of land grabbing, tribalism and nepotism, and corruption. Today these evils have become more virulent and resistant to any solution.
The Government arrested and detained Jaramogi and his group was politically harassed. Nyanza was neglected and marginalized. Bildad Kaggia was publicly derided by Kenyatta, because he had nothing, and yet others in the Kapengulia six had become so rich. Of course they did so through corruption. Jaramogi and Kaggia were patriotic and principled. ,Kaggia suffered abject poverty and died a poor man.
The opposition by various underground movements raised concerns about the lack of democracy and the violation of human rights by the oppressive regime. Today we enjoy more of what they fought for. However, the government hunted them down, arrested them, tortured them, imprisoned and detained them and many were brutally and extra-judicially killed!
The opposition in the 1990’s led by Raila Odinga and Kenneth Matiba brought the fruit of multipartism. Today, we enjoyed political rights. However, these rights are being subtly threatened by the Ruto regime.
The government arrested and detained Raila, Matiba and others. They acquired ill-health during their incarceration. The business empire of Matiba was bankrupted and he died a poor man! Raila has and continues to suffer abuse, harassment, and derision from those who have corrupted their way to power. However, Raila has kept the faith in the cause and is a beacon of hope for many.
The opposition led by Raila forced the expansion of democratic space, brought a new, progressive, and democratic constitution; and devolution.
The recognition and strengthening of the office of the official leader of the opposition is a good idea. However, it must be done right and should not be used as a subterfuge to sneak in provisions that undermine democracy and weaken the opposition. The opposition should not only have leeway to appoint some members of the constitutional commission but their areas should be fairly allocated funds for development and projects. The members of and communities from the opposition should be appointed and employed and not discriminated.
As you enjoy the succulent fruits, remember it took the courageous sacrifice by the opposition to realize it. Respect them.
The author is an enthusiastic political analyst in Kenya and shares his articles with the Diaspora Times Newspaper.