Kenya’s history of good intentions
The road to Kenya’s independence from the earliest of days to 1963 was always paved with the best of intentions, some of which are spelt out in the Jomo Kenya speech below. Looking back, it is easy to dismiss the whole episode as exploitation by the few in power but what would have been the alternative. For 50 years successive governments have faced this the most difficult of issues and have come up almost empty. The Kenya African National Union manifesto which is jammed packed with the highest ideals any society would wish to achieve is also the basis for the Sessional Paper No.10 of 1965 which legitimised the capitalist course, especially in relation to ownership of land and industry.
Jomo Kenyatta’s speech at the Kenya African Union (KAU) meeting (June, 1952)
I want you to know the purpose of K.A.U. It is the biggest purpose the African has. It involves every African in Kenya and it is their mouthpiece which asks for freedom. K.A.U. is you and you are the K.A.U. If we unite now, each and every one of us, and each tribe to another, we will cause the implementation in this country of that which the European calls democracy. True democracy has no colour distinction. It does not choose between black and white. We are here in this tremendous gathering under the K.A.U. flag to find which road leads us from darkness into democracy. In order to find it we Africans must first achieve the right to elect our own representatives. That is surely the first principle of democracy. We are the only race in Kenya which does not elect its own representatives in the Legislature and we are going to set about to rectify this situation. We feel we are dominated by a handful of others who refuse to be just.
God said this is our land. Land in which we are to flourish as a people. We are not worried that other races are here with us in our country, but we insist that we are the leaders here, and what we want we insist we get. K.A.U. claims this land as its own gift from God and I wish those who are black, white or brown at this meeting to know this. K.A.U. speaks in daylight. He who calls us the Mau Mau is not truthful. We do not know this thing Mau Mau. We want to prosper as a nation, and as a nation we demand equality. . . . It has never been known in history that a country prospers without equality. We despise bribery and corruption, those two words that the European repeatedly refers to. Bribery and corruption is prevalent in this country, but I am not surprised. As long as a people are held down, corruption is sure to rise and the only answer to this is a policy of equality.
If we work together as one, we must succeed.
The abuse of power
This is an edited excerpt from a Focus on Land in Africa report: Kenya has a history of widespread corruption and systemic abuse of office by public officials that has resulted in a situation in which encouraging statistics about economic growth (6.4 percent for 2007) coexist with depressing figures of crushing poverty (58 percent of the population lives on less than two US dollars a day). Political contests have become all the more charged because of what is at stake; those who achieve political power benefit from widespread abuses including impunity for political manipulation of violence, criminal theft of land, and the corrupt misuse of public resources—indulgences which occur at the expense of groups who are out of power.
Land seized by British colonists cut a swathe through Kenya’s modern-day provinces of Rift Valley, Nyanza, Western, and Central, creating an area that became colloquially known as the ‘White Highlands.’ In total, British and other European settlers took 20 percent of Kenya’s land, most of it prime agricultural spots. Independence in 1963 some of this was handed over, not to the people from whom it had been taken, but to the new government and government officials, using the colonial laws that the British had themselves drafted. These laws made no provision for the collective land rights of communities.7 The introduction of the concept of private individual property, without the recognition of collective land rights, upset the traditional arrangements of many indigenous groups, many of which based their land occupation and use on traditional collective practices, such as pastoralism. Colonial laws also treated “natives” as incapable of holding direct land title, instead having land held “on trust” for them by governmental authorities.
After independence the new government under Jomo Kenyatta did not recognize customary land use in law or practice but instead sold the land it acquired from British settlers under the principle of ‘willing seller, willing buyer.’ But much of the land ended up in the hands of members of Kenyatta’s Kikuyu ethnic group rather than with the communities from which it had been taken. Kenyatta also used the land for patronage purposes and to build alliances, a pattern that continued and increased under his successor President Daniel arap Moi. Colonial “trust” land remained in place with respect to the historic land of certain groups, including many pastoralist groups who were still deemed, in effect, incapable of holding direct land title.
The National Rainbow Coalition (NaRC) that brought President Kibaki to power in 2002 was supposed to resolve the land issue once and for all. This was one of NaRC’s major campaign promises. To that end, Kibaki launched the Ndung’u Commission to investigate patterns of corruption and unfair allocation of land and to propose remedies. The final report was deemed too controversial and the Kibaki government never implemented the recommendations. The report notes the importance of land in Kenya, stating, “land retains a focal point in Kenya's history. It was the basis upon which the struggle for independence was waged. It has traditionally dictated the pulse of our nationhood. It continues to command a pivotal position in the country's social, economic, political and legal relations.”
The American who wrote the most hated policy paper in Kenya
This document (edited) reveals the inside story on how an American, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, came write one of the most hated policy papers in Kenya’s political history: the Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965. 2015 is also the 50th anniversary of the paper’s adoption by the Kenya parliament. The paper virtually turned Kenya into a capitalist society and paved the way for those in power to plunder the fruits of Uhuru for themselves rather than sharing it with the general wananchi (people of Kenya). It is arguable that Kenya could have been anything other than capitalist. There is a strong belief that capitalism was a conspiracy between western powers and the then Kenya government. I think there is a case for natural evolution amid the prevailing conditions.
As the East African countries approached independence their second major concern, after that of finding the means to take effective control of government, was the development of their societies. World Bank missions to each of the three major East African territories, in their extensive and influential reports, made a strong case for establishing economic planning systems and project development units.
In the summer of 1962, Professor Ben Lewis of Oberlin College visited East Africa as a Foundation consultant and received inquiries from all three governments about the possibility of the Foundation’s supplying economic advisory assistance. The only firm request, however, was from Kenya. The government was by no means convinced that it wished to establish a planning process at the time, as was indicated by the initial response to the submission of Edgar Edwards’ curriculum vitae: Treasury replied that Edwards was a bit more senior a man than would be needed for what they had in mind. Edwards accepted the post nevertheless and arrived in Nairobi in August 1963.
At the time the Foundation agreed to supply this advisor, it felt that first attention should be given to the work of the East African Common Services Organization (EACSO), to which a grant of $45, 000 for economic consultants had been made in November 1962. Supplementary to this regional focus, the Foundation anticipated that it should be prepared to offer limited high-level assistance to the planning agencies of the three countries.
Within six months of his arrival, Edwards had convinced both the Kenya Government and the Foundation that a substantially greater effort than either had anticipated was necessary, or at least desirable. A rather rudimentary 6-year plan was produced in early 1964 by Edwards, Oliver Knowles, a Treasury official, and Michael Roemer, an M.I.T. Fellow in Africa. It was anticipated when this plan was adopted that it would be superseded by a revised plan once more economic planning competence was available and following greater elaboration of the policy objectives of the Government. Work on the revision had already begun before the 6-year plan was published. The first plan proved useful in negotiations with potential donors, which was the original government impetus for the exercise, but it also provided a framework for ministers and permanent secretaries to define their work and coordinate their efforts with other ministries. Most importantly, a Development Committee of the Cabinet, established before independence, became an active forum in which major economic issues could be discussed by the effective decision-makers.
In July 1964, a new Directorate of Planning within the Treasury was officially established with Edwards at its head, an arrangement that made the Foundation’s representative distinctly uneasy. It was one thing to provide advice on economic planning issues, but for a Foundation employee to be responsible for the planning mechanism was outside the boundaries of its own definition of its assistance. There is also some question about the legality of supplying foreign countries with a person in a position like this under the American tax law governing philanthropic assistance. This potential difficulty was overcome when Kenya became a republic on the anniversary of its independence, and a Ministry of Economic Planning and Development (MEPD) was created. Edwards became senior advisor to the Permanent Secretary of MEPD and, in mid-1965, he left Kenya to return to Rice University.
The creation of a separate planning ministry was typical of many newly independent African governments. Resentment of the Ministry of Finance, or the Treasury as it was commonly known, was widespread among the new leaders because it was seen as an obstacle to development. The creation of a new ministry, with a degree of autonomy from the purse-string mentality of Treasury officials, was thought to be progressive; besides, it was popular with the Bank and other donors. This mood lasted less than a decade, however, and most countries have now recombined planning with finance.
By the time the Ministry was created, a staff of five Foundation advisors was working on planning in Kenya: three Americans, one Dutch and one Swedish. The first Minister was Tom Mboya, whose remarkable intellectual capacity and leadership skills added greatly to the impact of planning in the country. Philip Ndegwa joined government as a planning officer at about the same time.
In 1965, the Kenya government proposed and Parliament adopted a far-reaching policy document entitled Sessional Paper No. 10, African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya. Much of the first draft of this paper was written by Edwards, a fact that has since aroused critical comment in some foreign publications. Before it reached Parliament, however, it was intensively reviewed and revised, first by an informal group chaired by Mboya with Mwai Kibaki, Ndegwa, Knowles and Edwards as members, and then by the Ministers sitting in the Development Committee. Sessional Paper No. 10 summarizes Kenya’s objectives as follows:
1. Political equality.
2. Social justice.
3. Human dignity, including freedom of conscience.
4. Freedom from want, disease and exploitation.
5. Equal opportunities.
6. High and growing per capita incomes, equitably distributed.
To some extent, the document represents the Government’s answer to the insistent voices in Parliament, led by Oginga Odinga and Pio Pinto, demanding more radical social change. The Sessional Paper sought to elucidate its philosophy that dignity, justice and equity need a firm basis of economic growth.