By Absalom MutereEast African Standard
June 2, 2003
Behind all the talk about corruption and mismanagement in Kenya lies a need to find new heroes, new role models and a vision. There is a generation that has only known one leadership, Kanu, all their lives. The former ruling party's defeat suggested that they did not fit the bill. Lasting impressions gained after all those years living under Kanu suggested that leadership was simply about liars and thieves looting State coffers. The youth are not quite sure about this current regime. They voted it in as the preferred option. However, in need of leadership which can see the way forward, they are watching its performance anxiously.
Madaraka Day appropriately embraces such a discussion. It is a day when Kenya talks about heroes, role models and vision. In addressing the same, Kenya's current leadership should appreciate the fact that it is dealing with a very skeptical constituency, one which has been brought up protesting against leaders who have not measured up to expectations. Recognition of that reality suggests that the current regime has to build vision and the confidence needed to move things along. Madaraka Day acknowledges a generation that achieved such ideas. However, for emerging generations, it needs to link that past with present and future realities.
Talk about freedom fighters may not engage the new age. It could and should. Materialism is becoming the order of the day. But when it gets to a point where economic cartels are using all manner of media to suggest that we consider marketing natural resources such as water and all traditional society sustain abilities, alarm bells should be raised. Our next generation are being given European footballers as role models in exchange for accessing the right to market natural resources that have all along been considered God-given. Campaigns promoting genetically modified foods confront Africa with similar issues. Despite knowing the continent can organically feed itself, cartels are investing heavily in promoting alternative lifestyles, the ones where everything has to be marketed and paying for all commodities under a globalized rubric.
That is not where Africa came from. However, global cartels and their logic of profit margins threaten to reign supreme in evolving 21st Century reality. Post-colonial Africa should know where that thinking comes from. The history of imperials was all about establishing such monopolies. That past has not changed in substance. It has only changed in form. Today famine has become a business proposition for global enterprises. So too has flooding. In between, Africans are dying and things are out of control on the ground. Cartels are coming in today and peddling the notion that water must be bought even as we are literally drowning in it. Between land and the natural resources which Africa was able to tap over generations without a price tag, why should local populations now have to pay for access?
Madaraka Day, in looking back and to the way forward, should engage Kenya's post-colonial generation in a dialogue regarding such questions. They relate to basic human right issues which are being addressed today. Freedom fighters were addressing the same in yester years when cartels came in, took land, commercialized it and made the original owners laborers. While acknowledging all those who fought to free themselves from that kind of imperialism, Madaraka Day should be telling a current generation of youth that the battle is still on. Regaining control means understanding why people fought for freedom in the first place. Madaraka Day acknowledges their efforts. However, 21st Century politics, prefaced under the term globalization, suggests that given lessons learned, they need to consolidate freedom.
In the struggle, Kenya needs present day Dedan Kimathi's who were radical enough to challenge the emerging world order on behalf of their people. It needs Kwame Nkurumah's who were way ahead of their time in terms of conceptualizing the way forward. That first independent Ghanaian leader's concept of a united Africa strong enough to effectively bargain with global society has yet to be achieved. There were many leaders who knew this. However, starting with Nkurumah, they were knocked off by the established order. Nkurumah's independence speech started with the words: "At long last the battle has ended and this Ghana, your beloved country, is free forever.'' His demise strongly suggested that he fell out of line with the established world order.
Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961), the first Prime Minister of independent Congo, along with Nkrumah shared a number of characteristics. Both advocated socialist governments in Africa. Both were toppled and killed. Lumumba's successor, Mobutu Sese Seko, was more user friendly to establishment interests. He ruled for 37 years. One could assume he was managing establishment politics well enough to have ruled that long in a mineral rich country.
Thomas Sankara came to power in Burkina Faso on October 15, 1983. He was only 37 years old. He was virtually unknown outside West Africa. However, he became a name to be reckoned with on the continent as he promoted policies addressing basic needs. The same policies were anti-imperialistic. Hence his demise in 1987.
Nelson Mandela, former South Africa President, was incarcerated for 27 years on account of challenging a racially inclined political order that was recognized globally because of its gold and diamonds. Today, he stands head and shoulders above all other statesmen for challenging the same.
On Madaraka Day, the trials and tribulations of all the above should be recognized. Recognition should also be given to the fact that globalization reeks of a familiar imperialistic syndrome. The struggle for freedom continues. How one engages the youth in the debate regarding its 21st Century version becomes an important challenge. There have been too many sacrifices made for the cause. We do not want to go backwards at this stage. Let us then talk properly to those who will inherit the kingdom. Let them also be heroes and role models in the struggle.
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