More in common with Kenyans than we think?

Chigozie Onyema is a member of the Kwame Ture Society (KTS), a student organization founded to further the development, dissemination of knowledge, and the advancement of the Africana studies discipline. Members of KTS will be regularly contributing to The Liberator.

Do We Have More In Common With Kenyans Than We Think?: Everywhere in the world, elections are the playgrounds of the wealthy, yet the poor and oppressed get caught up in the elites games. Politicians often deceive us into thinking that there is something in the elections for us, but a closer look suggests otherwise. The political crisis in Kenya has received much national and international attention, however the political dispute does not deviate from the norm in the US and around the world. The crisis stems from ambiguity surrounding the results of a recent presidential election. Raila Odinga, a Luo and the presidential candidate of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), claims that the election was rigged by the incumbent Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu and member of the Party of National Unity (PNU).

In opposing the results of the election, which by most accounts was rigged, Odinga combined populist appeal with tribalism. The Kikuyu make up only 22 percent of the population. Yet, they hold many of the top government positions. A small elite among them benefited from the recent economic boom in Kenya, in part, as a result of government connections. While only a small elite within the Kikuyu tribe have benefited, the entire Kikuyu people have become scapegoats for the class divisions among Kenyans by Odinga and the ODM. However, the fact is that 60 percent of Kenyans earn less than two dollars a day which cuts across all ethnic lines. Odinga and Kibaki are not among that 60 percent, yet appeal to their poor to kill in the name of ethnic solidarity. This has resulted in over 1,000 deaths and over 300,000 displaced. Neither candidate addresses the needs of the people or proposes much needed land redistribution. Instead they maintain the same system of their oppressors 45 years after independence and the people wonder whether they are still colonized.

While ethnocentrism and tribalism may seem distant to those of in the United States, it is clear that Odinga and Kibaki share the same tactics as our politicians and we respond in the same way as the Kenyan people. A clear example is the democratic primary. Barack Obama appeals to blacks, gaining 70-80% of their votes in the primaries. Hillary Clinton appeals to women, gaining a strong majority of their votes in the primaries. Yet both candidates are funded by Wall Street and are themselves multi-millionaires. Despite their rhetoric, Obama and Clinton share the same position on most major issues. You and I can not afford to fund their campaigns, therefore the candidates can not afford to represent us. Why do we feel invested in either of these candidates when neither represents the interests of the vast majority of blacks or women? Why do Kenyans feel invested in either candidate when neither represents the interest of the vast majority of Kikuyus, Luos, or Luhyas? Most U.S. blacks and women are middle class at best and many are poor and exploited, similar to the extreme poverty of 60 percent of Kenyans. Obama and Clinton, Odinga and Kibaki, rather than being agents for change divert us from struggling for our liberation. Let’s not be pawns in their game. Instead, let’s come together to forge a more realistic path to liberation through struggle against racism, capitalism, and imperialism. As Amilcar Cabral once said, “tell no lies, claim no small victories.”

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