Mwakenya. The Unfinished Revolution, by Maina wa Kinyatti, published by the Mau Mau Resource Center, Nairobi, 2014.
This is an absorbing archive record and commentary put together by Maina wa Kinyatti, a courageous dissident, political prisoner, and historian (whose earlier books include Kenya: A Prison Notebook, and Mau Mau: A Revolution Betrayed, 2nd edition). It is very properly dedicated to ‘the patriots who struggled and sacrificed for democracy and social justice’.
It contains documents from the Workers’ Party of Kenya and the December Twelve Movement (1974-1985), Mwakenya (1987-2001), examples of the Mwanguzi and Cheche newsletters, and a wide variety of reports, notes and essays from across the 25-year period spanning the Kenyatta and Moi regimes.
The book is then an important reminder of a strand of Kenyan history whose significance is overlooked, not least perhaps by today’s comfortable middle classes, who have materially gained most by the underground’s struggle, and also by those liberals such as the human rights lawyers, the churches, the media and the handful of politicians who came out to oppose the Moi dictatorship in the 1990s.
As Maina wa Kinyatti notes in the preface, this collection forms just a small portion of the papers from the WPK-DTM-Mwakenya movement. Some of the documents may seem parochial to today’s reader. But this is inevitable in any underground movement, beset by personality clashes, factions, setbacks and the loss of comrades.* There is however a pressing need to digitise all the available documents and post them onto Wikipedia and a Mau Mau Research Center website to reach a wider and younger audience in Kenya and beyond.
The WPK-DTM-Mwakenya movement was as relevant in the past as it is today. The Manifesto of Ukenya (1987), included in this collection, is arguably more comprehensive and radical than the better-known “21 demands of MKS” which prompted the creation of the Solidarity movement in the early 1980s. The legacy of the Manifesto is evident in the Bill of Rights in Kenya’s current Constitution.
But 1987 also marked the assassination of Thomas Sankara. Sankara saw his government as part of a wider process for the liberation of the Burkinabé people, who through mass mobilization constructed schools, health clinics and basic infrastructure and achieved unprecedented levels of food self-sufficiency.
Building a broad democratic socialist movement is today’s most pressing need in order to bring about peaceful social change in this period of late capitalism. The political and business elite lack moral legitimacy; Kenya’s political parties are hard-pressed to mobilise even their own acolytes, and yet they are all too aware that the gulf in wealth and opportunity, across generations, and between class that jeopardises, eventually, their own class. The political crisis is one of elite stasis. History tends to teaches us, however, that the status quo is not invincible. But the most immediate danger is a reactionary response, rather than the formation of a progressive government.
Did Kenya’s patriots and freedom fighters die in vain? No, clearly they didn’t. The Mau Mau struggle is not finished business.
The transition in Kenya is the fight between reform and anti-reform forces. The desire by the anti-reform forces to lock out reform forces is outmoded as the authority of the people reflected in the endorsement of the Constitution is unstoppable. The ruling elite are not aware of how Kenyans are building a popular movement for progressive change in Kenya.
Let’s hope that Maina wa Kinyatti will write some reflections to bring the Mwakenya story up to the present day. The prospects for the formation of a democratic socialist party have never been better. And who knows: perhaps Dr.Willy Mutunga could be emulate (albeit in reverse) William Taft, who served one term as President, and later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (the only person to have held both of these highest offices of the US)?
The British hanged Field Marshall Dedan Kimaathi Waciuri, the leader of the Mau Mau War of Independence, on February 18th, 1957. Karimi wa Nduthu, Mwakenya’s home coordinator, was murdered by Moi’s regime on 23rd March 1996.
[*The collection includes within the essay “Education and Imperialism” lambasting the popular writers Charles Mangua and David Maillu, which – in my view – completely misreads their intent and impact. Charles Mangua was an exemplary boss at the African Development Bank, at a time when the Bank habitually employed ‘exiles’ from various post-independence regimes. He was – like the other East Africans gathered at the Kilimanjaro Bar in Abidjan’s Deux Plateau- very kind to this green young professional, and he would talk widely on politics and literature late into the humid night … whisky and Nat King Cole. Fortunately, the young professional could walk back to his nearby apartment.]
UPDATE: The British Anti-Apartheid Movement has a tremendous website that catalogs a range of historical material (documents, posters, leaflets, speeches, photographs) that the Mau Mau Research Center could emulate.