if black lives don’t matter, african lives don’t exist: western observers in kenya have blood on their hands
November 3, 2017
By Agunda Okeyo / HuffingtonPost, AFROPUNK contributor
If Black lives don’t matter enough to say that #BlackLivesMatter, African lives don’t exist. Living in America is an exercise in frustrating tolerance of a people who fail to recognize their ceaseless exploitation of African lives, land and resources. Most Americans are ignorant of this country’s role in the assassination of the late great Patrice Lumumba of Congo, the colonization of Liberia in their attempt to rid themselves of free blacks beginning in the 1820s or the ongoing conflicts they endorse through the military program AFRICOM — exacerbating conflicts in Somalia, South Sudan, Congo, Mali and many other places to passively control African natural resources under the guise of “democracy building” and “security” against insurgents the U.S. birthed in endless middle eastern conflict. The simplest way to understand this willful ignorance is in the same way that the United States responds to their “original sin” of African chattel slavery. Currently, the Trump White House and the Republican Party are striving to unify a broad cross section of Americans on the tacit basis of race, specifically the white race. The world that Western Europe has balkanized and pillaged is untenable, so they are going back to basics: white is right. In the midst of the unprecedented Supreme Court ruling overturning the Kenyan presidential election and the emerging boycott of incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee party, African self determination must be ignored. This is the U.S. policy when it comes to Africans, black lives don’t matter, thus Africans, the source of all humanity, do not exist.
By 2043 the United States will be predominantly black and brown. That cannot stand if “Manifest Destiny,” the white man’s “God given” right to control North American resources, is to hold. The policies and practices of the Republican party are beholden to a white oligarchy that has funded the party’s candidates and exploits since the late 1970s. People like the Koch Brothers owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the United States, David D.Smith of Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the nation’s largest owner of television stations, and Robert Mercer, major funder of Breitbart Media, The Trump Campaign and Brexit Campaign, have a vested interest in unfettered white supremacist power. These men represent the top tenth of the top one percent of wealth that former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was railing against during the 2016 U.S. presidential primaries. In order to maintain the grossly unequal position they hold, they must continue to extract outdated energy sources like petroleum, deny verified science around climate change and beat back the coming tide of mixed race, black and brown people.
Just as this nation seeks to deny the agency and leadership of African descendants in America, they must also deny the agency of African people. As a Kenyan, this has never been clearer than with this year’s presidential election, an election fraught with blatant corruption from the incumbent Jubilee Party, and yet every Western observer including the Unites States deemed the election free and fair. The absurdity of this determination alongside a reality TV star in the White House after, by most accounts, the best president in modern U.S. history, is laughable.
The Cliff Notes version of modern Kenyan politics is as follows: President Uhuru Kenyatta is the son of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta. After being jailed, tortured then released by the British for his role in fighting for independence, the return of ancestral land and self determination of Kenyan people, he turned around and jailed a number of his allies. Among the leaders he jailed to send a message that he was the new extension of colonial domination, was the late Oginga Odinga—jailed after serving as Kenya’s first Vice President when he exchanged in a public war of words with Kenyatta. In the midst of jailing his allies, Kenyatta also walked off with a gaggle of ancestral land returned by the British, hoarding a majority and leaving thousands of his own people landless until this day. Oginga Odinga was eventually released and spent all his life determined the reclaim the moral soul of Kenya that was sold by Kenyatta to the British, who still maintain a neocolonial relationship with the country.
Odinga’s son Raila Odinga over the course of nearly forty years has emerged as Kenya’s strongest opposition leader, extolling egalitarian and democratic socialist values similar to his father and skeptical of Western interests and modern capitalism. Because Raila Odinga is not pandering to U.S. and Western European values of greed and mass exploitation, he seems untrustworthy to them. To the everyday Kenyan, he seems obstinate at worst or fundamentally genuine at best. Arguably, Raila Odinga has won every election since 2007, but his rival Uhuru Kenyatta has British allegiance and is among the the richest men in Africa so ballots are stuffed, critics are intimidated, police or thugs are paid to cause trouble and no matter what, Uhuru always wins.
Cut to 2017. This year’s August 8th election was a sham. Mere days before this year’s election, the technician charged with securing the computerized voting system under the country’s Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Chris Msando, was tortured and murdered. 79 percent of Kenya’s 19.6 million registered voters went to the polls knowing full well what happened, praying their votes mattered. Despite exit polling that projected Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) party to win, he predictably lost. All foreign observers including American John Kerry, who deemed the votes “free, fair and credible,” supported the results. Most Kenyans, based on past experience and logical deduction did not. NASA took their grievances to the Supreme Court and in a landmark ruling, the first time in African history and the fourth time in world history, the presidential election results were overturned. The response throughout Africa, that has been saddled by decrepit, greedy patriarchs since the murder of Patrice Lumumba, was resoundingly positive and hopeful. In the West, there was incredulity and paranoia about rampant bloodshed and crumbling allegiances—nevermind a totally fraudulent election… which puts Donald Trump in perspective.
Over the course of four failed bids for president since 2002 Raila Odinga helped usher in a new, democratic constitution in 2010, deemed only second to South Africa in the rights it protects and boasts the strongest Bill of Rights on The Continent. He also helped incrementally build (tacit) credibility of Kenya’s court system by regularly bringing electoral disputes to the new Supreme Court, established in 2010 with the constitution. This is not the first time Kenya has made world history to lukewarm adulation. In 2010 Kenyan crowd mapping platform Ushahidi, developed in 2008 after the December 2007 elections to plot reports of violence, was the tech used in the Arab Spring and subsequently across the globe from Haiti to Japan to Palestine to Australia in times of crisis. Kenya’s revolutionary electronic money platform M-Pesa is now used globally. Even the power sharing agreement between Kenyatta and Odinga following the 2007 disputed election set precedent across Africa.
Again, if black lives don’t matter in the U.S. why would they matter in Brazil, France, or India? How could African lives, people so “black” that the construct of race is no longer a signifier, matter? The answer is that within a Eurocentric world, dehumanizing blackness is critical to exalting whiteness and is stands to reason the minimizing African self determination, exalts European superiority. Thankfully, in Kenya, the construct of race and fallacy of Western superiority is an observable lie. When NASA and Odinga brought the results of the August 8th elections to the Supreme Court they ruled that the results were “neither transparent nor verifiable,” a fitting metaphor for Western opinion or credibility. The superiority of Europe over Africa is “neither transparent nor verifiable.” The notion that African lives don’t exist is “neither transparent nor verifiable.” The rerun of the the Kenyan election on October 28th was boycotted by a majority of voters because attempts to secure the voting system and process was “neither transparent nor verifiable.” Uhuru Kenyatta claims he is the victor even though only 38.84 percent of registered voters turned out to the polls and his “victory” garnered a ludacris 98 percent of the vote. Please.
Kenyatta has chosen to retaliate against the Nyanza region, the NASA opposition stronghold, by terrorising, beating and killing people who protest or simply for existing. Furthermore, another IEBC official, Caroline Odinga, serving as Deputy Presiding Officer in Siaya County was sexually assaulted and murdered in late August. Eight days before the rerun election, IEBC senior official Roselyn Akombe, resigned and fled the country to New York City amid death threats, stating that IEBC was not fit to meet the basic expectations of a free, fair, and credible election. Is it that African lives only matter when Western media and governments can point to our mutilated bodies and say “see, these people can’t govern?” No matter what they claim, the foreign observers who knowingly supported a dictator in an Armani suit and undermined the democratic voice of a people have blood on their hands. The fact of the matter is that Kenya is at a crossroads, that some say is the battle for its soul, charge taken on by Oginga Odinga, his son Raila Odinga and perhaps must be carried on by the Kenyan people as whole. What happens now and the role the the international community plays says a lot about internal commitment to democracy and external recognition of African voices, lives and values. Something tells me that to most Kenyans, African Lives Matter.
This post is in partnership with HuffingtonPost.
Photo: NAIROBI, KENYA – OCTOBER 26: A National Super Alliance (NASA) protestor yells as nearby police officers approach in the Kibera slum on October 26, 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya. Protestors boycotted the vote and attempted to block polls during Kenya’s controversial rerun election. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
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