|Although Daniel arap Moi began his presidency with what looked like overwhelming national support, he rapidly squandered it by alienating the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kamba, Mijikenda, Luo and other ethnic elite from the public service.
The Kikuyu elite was particularly bitter. Mr Moi had systematically replaced Kikuyu cadres with Kalenjin ones in the bureaucracy and the parastatals. In the beginning this did not raise too much protest — not even from the Kikuyu and Luo intelligentsia, the chief sufferers.
Why? Because the perception was still paramount in the public’s mind that the new president was simply trying to correct the terrible ethnic imbalance which the Kenyatta system had created since independence. But Mr Moi soon dispelled this by revealing himself as an out-and-out tribalist.
In 1988, however, he raised the hopes of those dedicated to building a single-ethnic Kenya. He appointed an office which sounded as if the President had at last internalised the increasing complaint against his manning every important public office with scantily educated Kalenjins.
When the President announced it, the “Ministry of National Guidance” reminded me of V. I. Lenin’s Commissary of Nationalities, a ministry by which the Russian revolutionary set out to solve — by means of socialist equity — all the deep ethnic contradictions which the Romanov tsars had created for millennia.
But Mr Moi had no such thing in mind. He immediately dashed our hopes by giving the new ministry an assignment akin to that of Heinrich Himmler’s in Berlin or Lavrenti Beria’s in Moscow or J. Edgar Hoover’s in Washington DC or Papa Doc Duvalier’s Tontons Macoutes.
Indeed, what kind of national guidance could Kenyans really expect from a ministry to be championed by such benighted party hacks as David Okiki Amayo, Ezekiel Barng’etuny, Nicholas Biwott, Joseph Kamotho, Davidson Kuguru, Mulu Mutiysa, Burudi Nabwera, Shariff Nassir and James Njiru, most of them practically illiterate?
It turned out that, by “national guidance”, the President meant only an extraordinarily powerful political instrument through which to spy on dissidents and betray them to Kenya’s equivalent of Adolf Hitler’s Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestaspo): “Secret State Police.”
To “guide” people was to use third degree lamplight to distort dissidents’ bodies and minds accordingly. In this way, some of Kenya’s finest political minds underwent mind-boggling mental and bodily torture, spending donkey years in the most dehumanising detention camps.
ALTHOUGH THE CHARACTERS I LIST HERE BELONGED to different ethnic groups, they were in the service of one ethnic elite, Mr Moi’s Kalenjin elite. All ethnic dictators have perfected the art of grooming and co-opting into service all kinds of turncoats from the oppressed ethnic, racial, gender and other groups.
The astonishing thing is that even those whom negative ethnicity degrades and deprives of dignity never seem to learn even a single lesson from it.
Otherwise Mr Moi’s victims would never have participated in flouting the very MoU which had finally enabled them to defeat the Moi-Biwott behemoth.
If they had respected that document, the bitterness which caused the fallout that led to a referendum — and thereafter to what many Kenyans claim to be Legerdemain by Samuel Kivuitu — might have been avoided. A thousand Kenyans would still be alive today to celebrate the new MoU signed by the selfsame two “principals” — Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.
Clearly, if they had any idea how angry Kenyans were at the very thought — whether correct or not — that those who flouted the first MoU were the ones responsible for the contretemps of December 27-28, people like Francis Muthaura would restrain their tongues in their own interests.
That is precisely what disappoints me in the present MoU. It says exactly nothing about how to remove the Muthauras from our body politic; how to extirpate together the cancer of tribalism that has eaten so deeply into our national flesh; how to commit ourselves to a new kind of national guidance.
Lenin’s Commissary of Nationalities was really nothing more or less than a ministry of tribes. Its task was precisely to see how smoothly and painlessly the wounds which the tsars had inflicted between nationalities, tribes and gentes could be cured once and for all.
If it failed, it was mainly because the Commissar of Nationalities in Lenin’s cabinet was a man called Josip Djugashvilli Stalin, a man as deficient in moral and intellectual resources as Mr Moi’s lieutenants, a man who, when he grabbed power, upon Lenin’s death, used it with the most thorough disrespect for human life.
At a time when ethnic thoughtlessness has nearly dismembered our country — a time when our e-mail addresses are full of deadly threats from ethnic bigots — what can we need more urgently than a properly appointed ministry of national guidance dedicated to studying ways on how to return our country to the path of national unity of purpose?