Sunday, December 25, 2011

DR Congo polls chaos invokes a country with a violent history

Supporters of Joseph Kabila on streets.
As tension is brewing in the Democratic Republic of Congo following elections results announced this month, there is fear that the country may slide back to civil war even as a defiant Jospeh Kabila took the oath of office, this invokes a country marred by a history of violence since the 30th June 1960  independence.

The results had been delayed with Joseph Kabila, 40 trouncing ten contestants to garner forty-nine percent of 18 million votes against his closest rival Etienne Tshisekedi, 78, who got thirty-two percent in polls with had a fifty-nine voters turnout.

“I consider this declaration an outright provocation to our people and I reject it in full. As a result I consider myself from this day on as the elected president of DR Congo” Tshisekedi said in a statement insisting that he garnered fifty-four percent of the votes against Kabila’s twenty-six percent.

Four other contestants have already rejected the results which the international observers say the voting was flawed but it wasn’t fraudulent enough to skew the results.

As tension escalates dozens of citizens have died while others including international expatriates have fled the capital Kinshasa where the government have deployed over 20,000 forces to try and restore calm.

“I call on the international community, which has relentlessly encouraged me to guarantee a peaceful process, to not only find a solution to this problem but take all possible measures so that the blood of the Congolese people is not spilled again” Tshisekedi is quoted by AFP correspondent before he sow himself with a bible in his house.

Analysts have ruled out the Supreme Court which will arbiter on the results before announcing the winner on 17 this month not to be able to quell the tension. Earlier during the campaign Kabila expanded the apex court from seven to twenty seven sitting judges believed to be his supporters.  Earlier this year the clause that required a seconded runoff in case of no definite winner with a 50% win was scrapped off stoking the legality of the court ruling.

“We saw what happened in Kenya . We saw what happened in Zimbabwe and we saw what happened recently in Ivory Coast . Things have got worse because we have not anticipated this” Vital Kamerhe, third placed contestant said.

As sporadic armed conflict starts, memories of conflict as started with the birth of the nation is rekindled. While other African countries stared as colonies, DR Congo started as a personal estate of King Leopold II of Belgian to make him the richest men in Europe with ivory, copper, timber and rubber from the country.

Leopold’s ambition and greed which spurred the scramble and partition of the continent saw him hire Welsh born journalist-explorer Henry Morton Stanley in 1878 to cut treaties with over 400 chiefs to form the current DR Congo.

Stanley was nicknamed by locals as Bula Matari- ‘Breaker of Rocks’ from dynamite, for his ability to hand out severe punishments to dissents. By independence several millions, estimated to be a half of the population had lost their lives to what Joseph Conrad in his famous book on Leopold’s Congo Heart of Darkness call “the vilest scramble for loot to ever disfigure the history of human conscience”

As reality of independence dawned and faced with the wind of change engulfing the continent Belgium tried to rig the first election in country against first Prime Minister who had irked the colonialist with his pan-Africanist ideology he got from the 1958 All African conference in Ghana .

“Who can forget the volleys of gunfire in which so many of our brothers perished, the cells where the authorities threw those who would not submit to a rule where justice meant oppression and exploitation” Lumumba said told Belgium delegates during independence “We are no longer your monkeys”

This caused the first loose coalition government headed by Lumumba as election winner and other 12 parties forming to shaky like an extension ladder and lasted only a few days of peace in the country. Chaos was sparked when the army controlled by 1,100 Belgian corps mutinied for salary increase.

Hell bend to outset Lumumba Belgium flew in more troops, liaised with the mining companies on 11th July and reinstate Moise Tshombe to declare Katanga , rich in mineral an independent state.

The bloodshed that followed saw assassination of Lumumba on January 1961 for siding with Russia and Czech Republic to aid in military expedition to rein Katanga and control an uprising in Kasai . USA cold war interests and Belgium mining welfare aided in propping Tshombe and Joseph Desire Mobutu to power fast on 14th September 1960 and later in 1965 as the absolute president. As the western ‘friendly tyrant’ Mobutu lead a kleptomaniac regime enjoying a $9Billion aid, US contribute $860Million of this. 

“The Congo paid heavily for the chaos surrounding the advent of independence. For years to come it became the battleground for warring factions, marauding soldiers, foreign troops, mercenaries forces, revolutionary enthusiasts and legions of diplomats and advisers.” Martin Meredith writes in his book The State of Africa .
Most serious and detailed conflict detailed in The UN backed report on Illegal Exploration of Natural Resources and other forms of Wealth from the DRC published from 2001-2003which unearth the extent of the great lakes war fought in the country.

It is from the start on 1988 that DRC was engulfed in humanitarian crisis in four stages according to the report; 1993-1996; July 1996-July 1998; August 1998-January 2000 and the final transition of January 2001- June 2003.

From 1988 to 2003 conflict drew a score of African countries; Angola , Zimbabwe , Rwanda , Burundi , Uganda , Namibia , Chad and all the way to the bloody diamond fields of Sierra Leone . The main allure being DRC’s vast mineral resources with the uncanny ability to bring to her doorstep hounds picking on he carcass amid plundering, war inhumanities and smuggling. 

In 1988 DRC was rotting under corruption, weak central government and huge debt. Mobutu was ‘dinosaur’ against the second democratic wind of change which turned the world against him. The fall of the Berlin wall and the extent at which aid was misused was enough cocktail to bring the world against Mobutu.

Joseph Kabila
To shore his failing image, Mobutu took a populist angle by being a regional powerbroker to meddle in Rwanda and Burundi’s genocide conflict despite DRC hosting over 1.5 million Rwandan refugees like Interahamwe, Mayi Mayi and Banyamulenge escaping the prolong tribal conflicts in the region.

Rwanda and Uganda resentful at cross border raid in Kivu and Eastern Congo chose to support Laurent-Desire Kabila rebellion against Mobutu. Angola too joined the fray by supporting Katanga rebels to hit back on CIA and Mobutu’s support to Jonas Savimbi and Unita by spying on her and the support offered by Cuba and Russia . 

When Angolan backed rebels tried to overthrow Mobutu in 1977 & 78 the west swiftly came to his aid, this was hit back time for Angola .

The second stage saw Kabila becoming the president of DRC on 17th May 1997 while Mobutu died four months later in Morocco . Uganda ’s Yoweri Museveni is quoted by Times journalist Martin Meredith in State of Africa to capture the all incident thus:

“The big mistake of Mobutu was to involve himself in Rwanda . So it’s really Mobutu who initiated the programme of his own removal. Had he not involved himself in Rwanda, I think he could have stayed, just like that, as he had been doing for the last 32 years – just doing nothing to develop Zaire, but stay in what they call power, by controlling the radio station, and so on”

The third stage (August 1998-January 2000) flared when Laurent Kabila dismissed Rwandan who aided his rise to power. His advisers couldn’t understand why a country ‘so small to be found in the map’ could control their government.

After propping him to power, Burundi , Rwanda and Uganda financed rebels because Kabila could not control the cross border raids by rebels from DR Congo to their country. On the other hand, Zimbabwe and Angola aided Kabila with help from Namibia and Chad .
Although the initial aims was to control their borders, the president’s otiose ambition of being regional kingmakers and unbridled greed for diamond, petroleum, gold, timber, Colton and other minerals the  DRC was a proxy war for looters. Generals from these foreign countries unleashed terror on citizens on mines to loot minerals. 
The acme of this stage was in 2000 when Rwanda and Uganda turned against each other in three occasions to control Kisangani the diamond hub. The illegal exploitation become an open secret.
Etienne Tshisekedi who sow himself as president
“Outraged by their ill-concealed looting enterprises and the damage inflicted on Kisangani, The UN Security Council demanded that Rwanda and Uganda withdraw from Congo with both Museveni and Kagame cited as ‘accomplishes’ by the UN panel” Meredith writes.

The last stage (January 2001-June 2003) saw the withdrawal of foreign armies after the July 2002 peace treaty by Joseph Kabila after his father was shot at a close range by his bodyguard on 16th January 2001. 
The just concluded election rekindles a history of bloodshed in DR Congo as the world waits with abated breath the outcome of Supreme Court ruling as Tshisekedi , US and France already call for calm in the country.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Statement by Kenya Union of Journalists on deteriorating media conditions in Kenya

The Kenya Union of Journalists is alarmed by the dangerous increase in acts of intimidation and threats against the lives of journalists in this country by state security agents.

At a time when the media should be enjoying its new protections enshrined in the constitution, it appears that the state security apparatus has become the most serious threat to press freedom and the practice of journalism in Kenya.
We are particularly concerned that little is being done to protect Standard Group investigative journalists Dennis Onsarigo, Mohammed Ali and Robert Wanyonyi from people believed to be in the security system who have been threatening their lives when they have only been doing their work.
It is noteworthy that Mr Onsarigo and Mr Ali aired investigative stories touching on corruption and extra-judicial killings in the police force. It is also interesting that Mr Wanyonyi had incriminating footage of another arm of the security apparatus – the provincial administration.
Hardly two years since Weekly Citizen journalist Francis Nyaruri was killed over an investigative story he had been pursuing and in which the police were adversely mentioned, his killers are yet to be brought to book.
It is very clear that the force is dragging its investigations due to its own fears of implicating itself. We are therefore calling for an independent investigation into the increasing violations of press freedom, the freedom of media and freedom of information in this country. The still unreformed police cannot possibly investigate a matter in which they are complicit.
The Kenya Union of Journalists is also deeply concerned by the slow pace of implementing access to information and freedom of information provisions of the Constitution. These laws are direly needed to protect the media especially as the country moves towards the 2012 general elections.
As experience of the recent days shows, the gains in the new Constitution could very easily be watered down by the enemies of press freedom and those determined to control the media. But they must know that Kenyans will not easily allow their hard-won freedoms to be watered down so casually by people living in the past.
These incidents make it imperative that all media stakeholders work together to safeguard journalistic rights which are vital for the development of a truly independent media.
Jared Obuya
Kenya Union of Journalists

Monday, December 19, 2011

DR Congo: From Che Guevara, dearth of sovereignty fuelling chaos

1965: Algerian born revolutionary Che Guevara of Cuba posing with Laurent Kabila's rebel in Zaire.
An absence of sovereignty is the hallmark of a failed state. The just hotly contested elections in the DR Congo, the third since independence on 30th June 1960 independence, attests to the country as a failed state since the UN mission, Monusco played a major logistical role in the elections.

The previous 2006 election was also brokered and run by UN to be the first free polls in 40 years.

DR Congo is ranked the last at 187 by UN Human Development Report as the most unequal country with a wide gap between the rich and the poor. The influential Foreign Policy magazine ranked the DRC fourth behind Sudan, Chad and Somalia in its 2011 failed state index

“Whatever accountability there is in DRC is directed towards international backers, not Congolese people” Theodore Trefon a Congolese analyst writes in BBC Online.

This lack of accountability to her citizens has seen the political elites turning the country to battle ground for direct and proxy wars by international interests both in the continent and globally at detriment of populace.

The most popular figure being the Argentinean born Cuba revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara who led 120 Cuban fighters in DR Congo after consulting with Algerian Ben Bella, China’s Zhou En-Lai and Egypt’s Abdel Nasser for advice.

Che secretly entered the country on 24th April 1965 from Tanganyika with blessing from Julius Nyerere. The mission became a failure causing the mission to be cancelled by the end of the year. While in Cuban Tanganyika embassy Guevara wrote The African Dreams: The Diaries of the Revolutionary War dismissing the 26 years Laurent-Kabila as a joke.

“(The army) it was a parasite army; it didn’t work, did not train, did not fight, and demanded provisions and labour from the population, sometimes with extreme harshness” he wrote.

On Kabila, Guevara had hash words: “He let the days pass without concerning himself with anything other than political squabbles, and all signs are that he is too addicted to drink and women”

It’s this status that saw the country enjoying only few days of peace after 30th June 1960 independence with Belgium, former colonizer, propping Moise Tshombe in the succession of Katanga on 11th July.

US followed suit with supporting Mobutu Sese Seko’s 32 years rule while as a CIA spy pay roll and the president. This caused the assassination of Patrice Lumumba on 17th January 2011 for seeking USSR and Czech personnel to help stop rebellion started by Belgium and supported by America. Angola which leaned towards the East in cold war had CIA spying on her from Congo which caused a brief war 1977 & 78.

During the fall of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and the rise to power of Laurent Kabila on 17th May 1997 a score of countries in the region were involved which brought the infamous ‘Great Lakes” which involved Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi amongst others in proxy battle to loot minerals in the country.

It’s this dearth of sovereignty that sees candidates in the last election to travel to Europe and US extensively to gain support.

Ever since UN was called in the country since 1960s to bring peace it has acted a glue offering administrative work. The last general elections of 2006 which was the fairest in 40 years and the just concluded have succeeded  because of logistical support offered by the UN.

“DR Congo is a country under international trusteeship. Important decisions are taken by World Bank technocrats, UN Officials and increasingly by international NGOs. When the electoral campaigns stared last month, candidates traveled to Europe and US to garner support.” Theodore Trefon a Congolese analyst writes for BBC showing the lack of sovereignty which makes DR Congo to be a failed state.

Folklore Poem: When dad was shaving me (Translated from dholuo)

When dad was shaving me,
I bowed my head down-down,
I saw something dangling,
Something like a cut worm,
It’s sweet at dawn when it grinds,
The thing plaits matuta,
The thing is red like ombulo’s seed.

Original version:
Kane baba liela,
Akulo wiya piny-piny,
Aneno gi maliero,
Machalo mana ofunyu,
Mit ko gwen ko rego
Gino suko matuta
Gino kwar ko ombulu

*matuta- cornrow hair style
Ombulu- a red hot African seed from wild legume  

© 2011 Manuel Odeny

Folklore Poem: My Husband, My Cunt (Translated from dholuo)

let me buy myself meat,
the meat I will eat with my husband,
my husband who fucks my cunt,
my cunt which gives birth to my kid,
my kid who suckles my breast,
my breasts which are ‘bra-ed’ by bra!

Original dholuo version:
anyiewna ring’o,
mondo acham gi chuora,
chuora machuona ng’onya,
ng’onya manyuolo go nyathi,
nyathi madhodhona thunda
thunda majuko go ojuku!

(We sung the song repeatedly as children and not even once did we think kids come from supermarket J)

©2011 Manuel Odeny

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Poem: Me and My Beggar by Otiato Guguyu

The Poet: Otiato Guguyu
it was in my ears -
the tingling coin
in his empty bowl
every empty dawn.

It was in his routine -
the timely nod
in grotesque gratitude
every begging morning

it was that same clanking coin
but there was no nod
my heart pride cherished gratitude
"but why"
"sir in the budget read yesterday
prices have inflated
but you still give me the same coin
I would be pleased if you raised your charity.

I walked away
tomorrow there would be no clanking

It would be a note!

©2008 Otiato Guguyu

The poet, Otiato Guguyu is a Communication and Media Technolgy with IT student at Maseno University Kenya, The Managing Editor of Equator Weekly and a Blogger at

Poem: Bedroom Technology by Otiato Guguyu

The Poet: Otiato Guguyu
Man why are you still basking in past glory
why are you still in celebratory robes
of the reign over the down trodden
can you rival the sperm bank
in production of likable features
single parenthood single conception
can you even dream of vibrating
like a chinese toy in the electronic shop
self reliance self satisfaction
and you still had the audacity
to let past your power fed eyes
same sex marriage
now the daughters of eve come together as one
will you allow to be pushed to
homosexuality and bestiality?
or will you with nostalgia
discover the joys of your palms
let us fight bedroom technology
lest we be rendered redundant
and allow the race of amazons
in the second millennium

©2008 Otiato Guguyu

The poet, Otiato Guguyu is a Communication and Media Technolgy with IT student at Maseno University Kenya, The Managing Editor of Equator Weekly and a Blogger at