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Majimbo was a settler scheme to Balkanise the nation

Majimbo was a settler scheme to Balkanise the nation

Published on October 10, 2007, 12:00 am
By Koigi Wa Wamwere

In the 1962 independence elections that Kanu won, majimbo was the central question. Over four decades later, history has repeated itself and majimbo will be the main issue of 2007 elections.

But what is majimbo, before we elect or reject its Orange Democratic Movement proponents?

Majimbo is a uniquely Kenyan term, not found in the Kiswahili dictionary, but conceived by European settlers just before Independence. It does not mean federalism, as claimed, or shirikisho in Kiswahili. The two words cannot be used interchangeably as Shirikisho Party does. As coined by Kenyan settlers, majimbo meant ethnic regionalism.

Threatened with the loss of Kenya, white settlers wanted to create for themselves a homeland or jimbo in the so-called White Highlands and isolate themselves from the African dream of Independence.

In his book Not Yet Uhuru, Jaramogi Odinga tells us the first intention of majimbo was to delay independence, and if unsuccessful, to carve Kenya into regions for every community, including white settlers.

Contrary to the claims of ODM, the English-Swahili dictionary does not translate devolution as majimbo, which was never conceived to give power and resources to downtrodden Africans. The Bomas Draft, on the other hand, accurately defines devolution as ‘usambazaji wa madaraka’, not majimbo.

To know what majimbo is, we must listen to Oginga Odinga in Not Yet Uhuru, page 227: “It was no secret that the authors of Kadu’s plan for regionalism were Wilfred Havelock, Michael Blundell, RS Alexander (all colonial politicians) and their associates… ‘The details…’, said The Times of London, ‘were worked out by Kadu’s European associates…’

“Regionalism was a development of the argument used by the settlers in the 1950s when they argued that the Westminster parliamentary model could not be adapted to Kenya because it gave too much power to the majority. Havelock and Blundell convinced Kadu leaders that an independent Kenya with a Kikuyu and Luo majority would be fatal.

“They could not stop independence, they argued, but they could divide Kenya into three autonomous states (Rift Valley, Western and Coast regions)…

“This plan would ensure that Kenyatta would never be Prime Minister for there need be no head of state or prime minister, but a loose system of regional councils with rotating chairmen.”

Today, ODM tell us they want majimbo to share resources equally. Majimbo is, however, not about sharing resources. It is about sharing the country. To actualise majimbo and share Kenya among communities, ODM will need to give all 42 Kenyan communities a jimbo or region each. But these regions will not be equal in size, resources or numbers. So our majimbo will not deliver equality to our communities. Without a change of the capitalist system in each community, the rich will continue to exploit and oppress the poor.

If ODM wants Kenyans to share resources, the solution is not majimbo but social democracy, which will distribute resources to the grassroots more equitably, more money to the Constituency Development Fund, free education, free medical care, higher salaries and controlled prices of basic commodities.

When Moi didn’t know better, he supported majimbo. Now he is saying ‘No’ to both ODM and majimbo. Were Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga alive, I am sure, they too would say no to majimbo.

Historically colonialists conquered Africa because she was fragmented into defenceless ethnic regions. To strengthen Kenya, we should support East African Federation, not fragment the unit we have into majimbo.

The writer is MP for Subukia and Assistant Minister for Information


About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.


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