This week bore witness to a number of huge Kenya-centric news stories.
The world at large turned its gaze on our country’s capital for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit. Many of Africa’s leaders were in Nairobi discussing all things climate. There was much talk about potential and opportunity, and there were commitments made to turning what could be into what will be.
Also, at the Africa Climate Summit, we bore witness to what might have been considered a cooling of tensions between Azimio la Umoja leader, Raila Odinga, and the President’s Kenya Kwanza party (a lower-case ‘h’ handshake, if you will). Then, however, just days later, we saw how, in fact fraternisation between the two factions might be just as frowned upon as it was at the height of maandamano.
Lastly, but certainly not leastly, this week also saw the passing of independence hero Muthoni wa Kirima.
The #AfricaClimateSummit23: Kenya’s stance and its showcase to the world
The first ever Africa Climate Summit was held at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Convention Centre. The KICC played host to delegates from all over the world, including many of Africa’s heads of state, the European Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen, the United Nations Secretary-General and many more influential names besides.
The three days of talks were centred on the role Africa will play in future talks and plans surrounding climate change. Much was made of the very real fact that Africa stands to be affected disproportionally by a changing global climate and that the continent bares little responsibility in bringing the planet to the threshold of this deplorable future.
Delegates took to the different stages of the Africa Climate Summit to promote solutions, promise changes and broker new arrangements.
Kenya’s president, William Ruto, arrived at the KICC each day in an electric vehicle: a symbolic gesture designed to illustrate the future he hopes we’ll one day have. At present, there are only 7 electric vehicle charging points in the whole country so electric vehicles are certainly not a part of Kenya’s present.
At the end of the summit, Wednesday, all the African leaders that were present signed a group declaration. You can read the full text of the ‘African leaders declaration on climate change’ here.
There is much in the above document that may interest readers but, if you are disinclined to read the text in full, perhaps you will permit yourself to have your attention drawn to one particular point that this commentator finds interesting.
Many of the clauses are recognition statements, accepting that this isn’t Africa’s fault and the fact that, despite this, it will hit Africa with an outsized degree of turmoil. One clause, however, signals the responsibility Africa will take, and that is this one:
“We commit to
21. Developing and implementing policies, regulations, and incentives aimed at attracting local, regional, and global investment in green growth and inclusive economies;”
Of course this is a fair and valid promise: a declaration that the continent will build itself up better for the courting of international financial backing. The reason why this commentator considers this clause interesting is in the propositions it suggests at.
Shall we expect an Africa of better regulations in the financial sector? Shall we expect continent-wide crackdowns on corruption (as Ruto has promised in his now-famous #MamboNiMatatu speech)? Shall we expect proper policing of the financial crimes that have crippled so many foreign companies looking to set up in Africa?
We shall wait and see.
The ODM banishments: a signal that fraternisation will not be tolerated
The news headlines and news cycle social media commentators of Kenya spent the second half of this week concerned with the ODM expulsions that many of you have, by now, likely heard about.
The Orange Democratic Movement (of Kenya) was once an amalgamation of Uhuru Kenyatta’s KANU party and Raila Odinga’s LDP (Liberal Democratic Party). Brought together in what would prove to be an uneasy alliance largely built off of the common ground built between the two leaders as they campaigned for a ‘NO’ vote in the 2005 referendum on adopting a new constitution in Kenya, Kenyatta and Odinga, briefly stood together to wrestle the presidency from Mwai Kibaki in the 2007 election.
Though the alliance between KANU and the LDP broke apart pretty early in the 2007 election campaign – with Uhuru leaving and Odinga remaining as the ODM leader –, the party was built on foundations that relied on mutual cooperation.
This week, however, the messaging coming out of ODM couldn’t be further from the early-2007 narrative of cooperation.
As of today, and despite that there is some uncertainty as to whether this is yet a sure thing, five ODM Members of Parliament have been kicked out of the party for collaborating with president Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza government.
The reason there is some uncertainty on this front is because, as of today (Friday 8th of September), two of the expelled former ODM members say they are yet to receive official documentation dictating their expulsion. One, Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda, also intends to challenge his expulsion in the courts.
At a meeting co-chaired by Raila Odinga and ODM’s National Chairman, John Mbadi, the soon-to-be-banished Members of Parliament were told that they had violated party Constitution and the Political Parties Act 2011. They had done so by supporting the activities of a rival political outfit. That is to say, that ODM’s elected Members of Parliament were being kicked out for working with the government.
With official clarification allegedly still not forthcoming, and with legal battles potentially on the horizon, it remains to be seen whether these expulsions will stand. The messaging for party members is, however, crystal clear: work with the government and there is no place for you in the Orange Democratic Movement (of Kenya).
Remembering Muthoni wa Kirima: the hero who led Kenya to independence
On the 4th of September 2023, at the age of 91, Muthoni wa Kirima, freedom-fighter and Field Marshall in the Mau Mau forces, died. The great lady, nicknamed ‘Nyonyi ya Thonjo’ – or weaver bird – by Mau Mau leader Dedan Kimathi, leaves behind a huge legacy.
Women played a notable part in the independence struggle between Mau Mau fighters and the British colonial regime. They were integral in the relay of information between combatants, in the distribution of arms, food and other supplies, and, in the case of the weaver bird, in strategizing.
In later life, the former Field Marshall became famous for the dreadlocks she grew and maintained as a symbolic remembrance of the 7 years she spent in the forests, organising and facilitating military action against the British. In ceremonious fashion, Mama Ngina Kenyatta cut off her dreadlocks in 2022. Muthoni wa Kirima stated that the act was recognition of the fact that all she had hoped for, in her fight for independence, had now been accomplished.
RIP Nyonyi ya Thonjo.