MATHIU: What violence in ODM rank and file says about leadership

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By MUTUMA MATHIU
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On April 14, 1986, three officers from the Special Branch drove up to Kipsigis Girls High School in Kericho.

They were interested in one teacher whose house they ransacked, taking away his newspapers, books and letters.

In those days, there was such a thing as a “prohibited publication”, that is, books and publications that the government had ordered we shouldn’t read.

If you were found with copies of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital or Communist Manifesto (which he wrote with Friedrich Engels), you were cooked.

Other books, such as Devil on the Cross and Ngahika Ndenda by Ngugi wa Thiong’o were also poison.

TORTURE
There were also pamphlets being produced by Kenyan exiles, which in those days sounded explosive but would today look rather tame.

This poor teacher was intellectually curious and probably had a library of interesting books.

In those days the Special Branch used to take its tutelage from Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s Securitate, whose accomplishments in the general area of extracting confessions by pulling nails, brutal beatings and other forms of torture, were considerable.

That teacher was held at Kericho Police Station for the night, separated from the other prisoners to soften him up.

According to court papers, the teacher was blindfolded and driven to Nairobi’s Muthangari Police Station in Lavington.

So rich folks were going about their duties without a clue that a few metres away was a man shivering in solitary confinement.

He was moved to far more commodious and better equipped torture facilities in the basement of Nyayo House.

And for 14 days, he was tortured mercilessly and then given an ultimatum: We will take you to court, you will confess to all the charges, if you don’t we will bring you back here and kill you.

At about 5.45pm on April 29, he was hauled before a magistrate and sedition charges were read to him.

He confessed and was jailed for four years at Kamiti. On October 11, 2011, a full quarter of a century later, justice was done.

The High Court found that his rights had been violated and he was awarded Sh4.5 million in damages.

The teacher’s name was Mr Oduor Ong’wen.

We have not written a coherent and honest liberation history of Kenya. We have forgotten, and our children have no idea, who suffered so that these politicians can have the freedom to register their parties, lie to the masses and have themselves elevated to positions where they can steal public resources.

MOI’S REGIME
Public-spirited Kenyans are sleeping dogs, subject to the tyranny, not of numbers, but of the petit bourgeoisie, all these peasants who are putting on funny airs on account of a little money.

I guess we all know about the politicians who never pass up an opportunity to tell us how they were arrested, tortured and detained for our sake and how awesome and brave they were.

Not as well-known are the university students, and especially their leaders, who bore the brunt of Daniel arap Moi’s brutal crackdown of the 1980s against Mwakenya.

They resisted his rule with almost nothing. They defied his dictatorship by reading prohibited books, some may have uprooted a small section of the railway in Uplands, there could even have been talk of an armed rebellion, but it was civil disobedience. Mr Moi, in his advanced insecurity, couldn’t see that.

KENYA’S HEROES
So he brought the power of the State — led by his Communist-trained goons — to bear on idealistic young people, barely out of their teens, who just wanted freedom.

They wanted democracy, the right to form and belong to political parties and to challenge Kanu for power.

Kanu responded by throwing them into jail. But finally those kids won; Kanu surrendered and repealed Section 2A and ultimately lost power.

It is because of the sacrifice of those young people that Kanu’s back was ultimately broken.

We have put up no monuments in their honour and we have granted them no medals: our national medals are of little value, they are awarded willy-nilly to bureaucrats, greasy toadies and hangers-on, spouses and relatives of folks in power.

REWARDING VIOLENCE
That is one thing. It is altogether another to see some goon in an ill-fitting suit of long wear stretching to kick Mr Ong’wen’s stomach, totally oblivious of the fact that were it not for Mr Ong’wen and his comrades he would still be behind a cow in the village and Kanu life member number 43 million.

There is no greater crime against Kenya’s liberation struggle than that peasant’s kick.

Even in the midst of so much democracy, there are still those in the Orange Democratic Movement who think that the only way you can be an MCA is by deploying thugs to unleash violence on those who disagree with you.

ODM responds positively, it caves in to violence. In this case, it said that Mr TJ Kajwang’s nomination certificate was a “forgery” after Ms Elizabeth Ongoro stormed Orange House.

Ms Ongoro will likely be rewarded, not punished, for the uncouth conduct of her supporters. That is the kind of politics the party does.

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