89 year old Robert Mugabe got sworn in this week in his 7th term as President. After winning an “election” with 63% of the votes verses Tsvangirai’s 37% and also garnering a house majority in parliament, we just have to concede that after all these years, old really is gold in Zimbabwe. Mugabe has been party leader of the populist Zanu-PF since the 80s, his most renown land reform policy returned land to millions of citizens who were previously squatters and sealed ownership of Zimbabwe in the indigenous people of Zimbabwe. So. Never mind that self rule didn’t turn out as rosy as the people had hoped, they owned the land they live on and that is ALL that matters.
It’s such a simple, trifle thing and yet even the most so called educated intellectuals and political pundits just don’t get it. Even if Mugabe were 180 years old, way past dead and barely breathing, he could still cling to power and win an election with over 60% of the votes because the people own the very land they live on from now into eternity and that is all that matters to them.
Land is the sole determinant in all of Africa, it is the land that caused the scramble and partitioning of the continent and it is the land that will forever remain the source and fuel for conflict. It is land that brought colonial settlers here and it is land that freedom fighters fought for. It is land that gives us life and a livelihood and it is land that African governments must redistribute in an equitable, fair and considerate manner.
It’s no secret that the people of South Sudan had been tormented in a 21 year old war because of the resources found on their land. You would expect that after gaining independence and becoming Africa’s youngest nation State that South Sudan would quickly encourage her people to re-settle far and wide and reclaim the land so that they can develop together. But this is not the case. South Sudan’s government suffers the exact same problem every single post-colonial country suffers to date. There are elements that will always be unwilling to cede power by allowing the people to take up what is rightfully theirs. Some of these elements may come from Khartoum, but many of these elements resist from within.
If black gold is the poison that keeps Abyei near the border with Sudan aflame with violence, then the people of Turkana County are facing an impending doom. In 1961, one of the largest oil deposits in East Africa was discovered to rest beneath northern Kenya. It was of course kept a secret then. Ever since, the Northern territories have deliberately been under developed and marginalized; this is a region that sees perennial conflict. Northern Kenya is so lawless that the Government of Kenya visibly struggles with cattle rustlers, bandits and brazen border crossing terrorists. Earlier this year over 100 policemen were killed in an ambush in Baragoi district while tracking supposed cattle rustlers.
To kill 100 Kenyan armed policemen takes not just the biggest cajoles one could ever possess, but it also means that the attacking party was far better armed and prepared and certainly outnumbered the policemen.
More importantly, it means that right within our country is a militia that completely refuses to recognize the law enforcement authority of the Kenyan police. Chances are, the policemen met with the law enforcing authority of some mini-lord out there in Baragoi.
In Northern Kenya, administration police die like flies. They are under equipped, lack resources and outnumbered constantly. As soon as the Kenya government announced last year that Tullow Oil Company had discovered oil in Turkana County, there was a marked increase in arms being distributed among the people there. Note: it took the Kenya government 52 years to tell the people what exactly they were standing on. During which time, certain members of government and highly placed politicians had bought entire sections of land in Turkana at throw away prices. The place is dry and arid, so at the time it would have been a bargain to anyone.
Now the people are wiser. They now understand why for decades they were left to starve under the blistering sun, why only NGOs would give a hoot whether they lived or died why there are hardly any schools, no electricity, no roads and no security. They finally understand that the very ground that they stand on is the reason why their numbers have deliberately been depleted through conflict, starvation and disease and why the rest of the country couldn’t care less. And they are arming themselves.
It’s almost hilarious for Kenya to declare that it is set to be an oil producing country within a few years. To successfully produce oil from that part of Kenya is to eliminate or subdue the threat posed by the people who rightly live there and those people are armed. What is likely to happen is a long protracted conflict, whether political or physical; one that will make the journey to those petrodollars difficult, painful and quite possibly bloody.
When we say oil producing nation, I don’t think of Saudi Arabia where social services and amenities mean that nobody is homeless or going hungry or unable to seek medical attention. No. When we say oil producing nation, I think of Nigeria, where the disparities between rich and poor and ethnic communities and religious groups is so dark and distinct that Nigeria has homegrown terrorist groups.
We, as a country, did not take stock in the run up to independence on how we would actually manage to live together, all 120 different ethnic groups, within one border and share resources. We allowed a handful of politicians decide to impress deeper a colonial divide and rule doctorate, to sew together haphazardly linguistically and culturally similar groups so as to reduce the national ethnic tally to a strange number of 47 and to totally ignore ancestral land rights and concerns over much needed resources necessary for the sustenance of entire groups of people.
Every 5 years thus, we allow these same Frankenstein- like politicians or their psychopathic offspring to hem and haw at whatever little sense of nationhood that we have, we let them use our ethnic differences to polarize us so that they can be elevated into power in repeated fiascos we call elections. In the event that you live in an area where the law is not the Kenya police, you can be sure that every 5 years, those parts of Kenya run red with blood because of these “leaders.”
It’s funny how Kenya refuses to learn from Zimbabwe thus. Seeing as these political leaders desire to rule forever, all they need to do is to restore the land to the people. The fact is, once that is done, even if the people aren’t well off, they will still give you their vote. It will be an effortless victory. KANU can then rule for 100 years as President Moi once said, and do so without need for bloodshed. Painless, effortless, power.