Money in the pocket and a full stomach has made leaders forget about uniting country


“Does (it) mean that the very notion of justice may be postponed as disruptive to peace? No.” – Mahmood Mamdani in Saviours and Survivors, his book on Darfur.

French historian and scholar Julian Benda has told us that history is made of that which the intellectual has torn or literally rescued from the politician.

It was as if he lived in a pure world where the two occupied different domains. So what happens when the intellectual is a willing and happy recruit of the politician?

Even worse, why would the rest of society keep silent as if in comatose or even worse sulking that the politician did not contract them.

Of late, it has become fashionable to quote, misquote and represent Ugandan scholar and committed intellectual Mahmood Mamdani especially in respect to the ongoing Kenyan cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Priding himself as a post-conflict scholar, Mamdani has investigated the conflict in Darfur, the Rwanda genocide and South Africa during and after apartheid.

He has written on Iraq, Afghanistan, ICC and the war on terror in its entirety.

He is a regular and incisive contributor to local and international press.

He has dedicated the latter part of his career to examining pathways to peace, reconciliation and stability in post-conflict societies.

It is him who came up with the so-called Nuremburg and Kempton Park experiences.

Put simply, what lessons we can learn from post-war Europe and post- Apartheid South Africa.

Reconciliation may at times just take the form of practical measures.

The challenge of perpetrator and victim having to live side by side may even call for traditional forms of justice unique to the environments in question.

Under Rwanda’s Gacaca, a perpetrator would be required to till the victim’s land for example. Others built houses for those they had wronged and dispossessed.


Kenya’s post-election violence had neither clear winner nor loser.

That is why the best route was deemed to be one of survivor’s justice.

But the Kenyan justice has had its problems. A regime of skewed monetary compensation has dogged it from the start to date.

It has been observed, and rightly so, that giving someone Sh200,000 to Sh400,000 to buy land away from where he called home is a blatant mockery.

Even worse, compensation, whatever and however dismal, has been preponderantly steered towards (a) select sections of the population.

It is Mamdani who in a lecture organised by Kenya Human Rights Commission advocated for “impunity in exchange with far-reaching reforms”.

This involves promising your victims that never again, shall you visit upon them the same atrocities. It involves the right of the victim never to forget.

In South Africa, during the Archbishop Desmond Tutu-led Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, forgiveness was predicated upon full disclosure and an open and contrite personal apology and request for forgiveness.

It was a process so cathartic that only the Rwandan Gacaca hearings can be compared to it.

The army of propagandists would want us to view the Kenyan situation in isolation and consequently sidestep the very processes Mamdani prescribes.

It is called eating your cake and having it.

It is trickery, dishonesty and propaganda dressed up as intellectual and scholarly discourse.

Peter Kagwanja (Sunday Nation, October 18, 2015) and Bagaka Obuya (Saturday Nation, October 30, 2015) fall into this category.

Their views are welcome for they provide the provocation for putting things into perspective and allowing for what Gerard Prunier has termed intellectual hygiene while Wole Soyinka would call it intellectual intercourse.


Immersed as Mamdani is, Kagwanja and Obuya are aware of his warning against acting before understanding. He warns against prioritising doing over knowing.

He knows that most of us, being lazy by inclination would rather avoid complicating the story with so many details and thereby “miss the point”.

We should not rely solely on the evidence of our eyes and thereby avoid details.

In our case, we don’t want Nuremberg (ICC) or Kempton Park. So what do we want?

We are comfortable with lies, statistics and lies, ala Churchill. We want to fool ourselves and also fool the world.

Obuya argues, correctly that Agenda IV items were the clincher that would guarantee continued peace.

So, what have we done about Waki and Kriegler reports?

Waki recommended a local tribunal, did we organise any?

Did we set out to ensure our elections would be tamper proof and verifiable moving forward as recommended by Kriegler?

Instead in the run-up to 2013 elections, we came up with multiple voter registers and a mysterious Green Book.

Post-war Europe was but rubble.

While the Allied forces took great pains to target military bases only, civilian casualties were not rare in Germany.

The bombing of Dresden, with almost 60,000 dead and the city flattened, stands out as a sorry narrative of Second World War.

Yet Germany is now Europe’s economic powerhouse. They didn’t live in denial. They squarely faced their demons.


They consigned Adolf Hitler and the Nazi memory to where they belong. Ignominy.

On the economic front, the Marshall Plan and macro-economic reforms pulled Germany (especially West Germany) to quick recovery. The role of economic prosperity in post-conflict societies is as crucial as economic stagnation is to fomenting civil unrest.

In Kenya, we swung towards an upper class economic boom whose effects are still minimal in fostering cohesion.

Put simply, money in the pocket and a full stomach make people forget the sorrows of yesterday.

We are not any worse off than Northern Ireland who endured years of civil war complete with horrifying terrorist attacks pitting Irish against Irish.

Yet they put all this behind them. Bill Clinton helped, yes. But just the same way as Kofi Annan did for us.

The South African model, though sullied through run-away neo-liberal reforms, is a success story of political inclusion.

The South African Asian community is visible within top echelons of society.

Be they Mac Maharaj, Ahmed Katrada, name them, their lot cannot be compared to our Markhan Singh, Pio Gama Pinto and other Asian stalwarts of our freedom struggle.

Hoarding of power by a section of the country and indeed the boast that power shall remain within a narrow ethnic alliance for the unforeseen future is inimical to lasting peace.

The intellectual industry around ICC would do well to advise Jubilee to avoid the tyranny of numbers crusade and built one unified nation.

The sad reality is that Kenya has continued the conflict of 2007/8 through winner take all and Machiavellian politics.

So where did we get the doctrine of tyranny of numbers from? The ICC conundrum does not represent the aggregate wish of the Kenyan people as a monolithic unit.

It is a product of partisan choices made for narrow political scores by the very political side which now cries foul.