Multipartism helps the oppressed
Thursday, 17th January, 2008
EDITOR—I wish to comment on Michael Nakahebe’s letter entitled “Movement politics was peaceful and successful” published on Tuesday. In the letter, Nakahebe blames Africa’s present problems on tribalisation of politics.
Tribalisation of politics has been going on everywhere in Africa and has nothing to do with the introduction or resurrection of multipartism on the continent. The African governments have got a tendency to intimidate, displace and disenfranchise ethnic populations suspected of being sympathetic to the opposition.
Multipartism just gives a chance to those displaced by ethnic clashes to have a recognised voice against the government. In Kenya, there was a movement founded in the 1980s called Mungiki which drew its support from thousands of people displaced by ethnic clashes.
The reality is Africa will never go back to one-party system as so many people have sacrificed a lot to put us where we are at the moment. In Kenya, for instance, a left wing movement called Mwakenya was founded in 1979 to challenge the one-party orthodoxy. So many of its members were jailed, detained, killed or forced into exile. Mwakenya was multi-ethnic though the Kenyan government used to portray it as a Kikuyu tribal movement.
So it is the politicians in power to blame for the tribalisation of politics with their ‘divide and repress’ strategy rather than multipartism. With or without multipartism, people always find a way of opposing the government as a way of expressing freedom of association.
Several movements were formed in Kenya to challenge injustices by the state. These included: Dini Ya Msambwa, Legio Maria, Akorino and Hema ya Ngai wi Mwoyo (The Tent Of the Living God).
The common thread that joined all these movements was that they rallied their followers behind traditional values to challenge mainstream churches as well as injustices by the Kenyan government. It was not until 1992 when Kenya returned to multiparty system that some of these movements were transformed into political parties.
Ethnic violence in Kenya broke out even before the country had returned to multipartism. This was in November 1991 when Kalenjin warriors attacked Miteitei Farm on the border between Western Nyanza and the Rift Valley provinces. However, It is true that violence escalated after 1992 but this was mainly due to state tribalisation of politics rather than the existence of multipartism.
In October 1993, Maasai gangsters attacked and killed 30 people and displaced 30,000 in Enoosupukia, Narok, as punishment to the Kikuyu who had voted against the government party (KANU). The Kenya Human Rights Commission estimated that state-sponsored or state-condoned violence in Kenya between 1991 and 2001 killed 4000 people and displaced 600,000 others.
This was a ploy by the ruling elite in Kenya to use ethnic violence as a tool for winning elections and used it to blame mulitipartism. Multipartism is good as it gives people freedom of association and expression. It does not lead to ethnic violence at all. Let us give it as chance in Africa.
Abbey K. semuwemba