The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) could as well be a hoax. It appears to me like an organized imposter operation.
Coming at a time when imposters haunt Kenya’s public service spheres – starting even with the Kenya Police Service who’s rank and file are trained to detect and apprehend imposters – Dr. Kibunja’s NCIC appears to as a Committee version of this suspect called Waiganjo.
Those that approved its establishment are, to me, the institutional representation of that sinister man called John M’mbijiwe who chaperoned Waiganjo as the Rift Valley police boss until he was reluctantly shown the door last month.
The NCIC falls within the long continuum of how easily our politicians lie to Kenyan citizens and interested richer nations that they are doing something to sort out a nagging problem. Such lies drip faster when, say America and Britain get grumpy about things that could scratch their strategic interests in Kenya. But that’s the less worry for now.
The truth of the matter is that organizations like the NCIC are erroneously founded. Right from its inception the Commission was neither needed nor was it headed anywhere. At best, it provided day jobs for a few cronies of the ever feuding families that have dominated Kenya’s politics and commerce since independence.
No wonder Dr. Mzalendo Kibunja’s team has, right from its start failed to convince what it’s been up to. A part from the salaries and allowances the Commissioners draw, the writing on the wall is that the NCIC has not advanced any public cause.
To say the least, the NCIC has been, and continues to be a waste of public time and funds. It should have been disbanded before its office space was identified. The idea of its creation should have been struck off the agenda of the meeting where it was first discussed.
Cohesion and integration are fruits that serious nations reap after their leaders and citizens have invested their politics and economics in the right places. Cohesion and integration are not seeds committees such as the NCIC plant and tend, however well choreographed or intentioned.
Evidence of the Commission’s irrelevance continues to pile, even when one is not digging deep to find it. Take for instance the latest advice to the nation by NCIC’s Chairperson Dr. Kibunja. Today he urged politicians and the Kenyan public to halt discussions of Kenya’s historical injustices until after the March 4 general elections.
In the usual preachy incantations Dr. Kibunja is famed for, he pleaded that such discussions could cause inter-ethnic tensions, even violence as election campaigns hit their homestretch. So, his logic is silence about past injustices yields massive peace dividends, and ultimately the vision of the NCIC – cohesion and integration of all Kenyans. So conversation about our unresolved past issues and attempts by whoever cares to explore ways these could be best dealt with and rested is, to Kibunja and his NCIC, the single most toxic thing that could affect peaceful elections this year.
Such is absurd logic.In fact I believe Kibunja merely wants a positive project evaluation report at the end of the tenure of the NCIC.
Let me speak from my personal experience and what I want to base my choice for president on. Today I want to hear who among the presidential candidates offers the most solid and convincing evidence that historical injustices perpetrated against my family, my multiethnic childhood friends, their families and myself will be dealt with in a manner that those responsible are held accountable and justice is justly delivered to all of us affected.
The injustices I speak about were first committed in 1991, through 1992 when the first bout of pre and post election violence was planned and executed under the watch of then president Daniel arap Moi. Despite existence of evidence upon evidence of who were behind the violence that got my family, neighbors and friends illegally displaced until now; families’ investments in land and productive farming destroyed; social relations permanently severed and dreams scattered – no one has been held to account.
In fact what has turned to be the case is that the crimes of 1991-1992 and later 1997 by politicians were successful pilot projects upon which the grand violence and crimes of the 2007-2008 elections were modeled and executed. Due to their scale, publicity and apparently high stakes, the latter have become the main reference point every time and everywhere Kenya’s election-related violence and displacement is discussed. The 2007/8 crimes also happen to be the basis upon which Kibunja’s NCIC was established.
Back to my original point: I opine that nations cohere and integrate when their people agree to certain significant minimums about what constitutes the common interest. These are solidified when there are strong guarantees that no one individual or groups of individuals can subject the rest of the population to situations where crimes go unpunished; laws are twisted to advantage criminals and those in power; human rights mean nothing and impunity is a reward for the famous who thrive on illegality for personal gain and power.
Serious nations do not set out to plant cohesion and integration in the first place. Instead, they invest in setting reasonable basic rules of political, economic and social co-existence and make sure everyone is subject to those rules. In our case, those rules have always been with us through constitutions and laws.
Even at our weakest moments as a country acts of arson, murder, rape, assault, destruction of private and public property, robbery – all have been clearly defined as crimes punishable by law. Even at our darkest hours as a country, we had a police service, we had courts and we had governments led by people that swore allegiance to the people of Kenya and to upholding the constitution. Never mind that these people might not have meant it when they took oaths of office, but we had institutions that could deal with the many unresolved historical injustices.
So Dr. Mzalendo Kibunja proposes a national ‘mute mode’ on our long history of assassinations, state sanctioned economic crimes and sabotage, corruption, misuse of police and judicial processes for personal gain and preservation, illegal and violent evictions and displacement of populations, land grabs, political corruption and oppression spanning decades and generations.
He preaches that we suspend reference to our own experiences as we debate and vet candidates for the March 4 elections. He leads a Committee that seems to have embraced the fallacy that to solve our problems we need to resign to silence and postpone the difficult conversation of what we need done to embark on a journey of heal our scarred, wounded souls.
When he spoke like that today, he gave me perspective of why the NCIC has had as its strategy private, quiet meetings with tribal elders in the name of securing promises that their ‘tribes people’, actually men, will not butcher each other next time there are elections.
This is plain silly as we know politically instigated violence in the past did not happen because older men of selected tribes were not convened at hotels, fed and made to blubber before media cameras that they were now best friends with those butchered by militias of politicians believed to be sharing their first language.
We know political violence has persisted since 1991 because a political and economic environment had been manipulated by those in power in a way that their own criminality would go unpunished. This way, the power barons of the Moi and Kibaki era would structure security services as organs to advance their political agenda and blunt their law enforcement roles no matter who the offenders were. Political violence has turned out to pay, and pay very well to those who use it to either ascend to power or cling to it. Impunity, at both high and low places is now culture.
Yet this history is what needs to be faced in the eye and ways to make sure its harm to the Kenyan nation is dealt with and prevented from persisting is what any serious presidential, and may be parliamentary candidate needs to be probed about.
How our historical injustices are dealt with could perhaps determine how we let go of our pent up tensions and unlock our march forward as a people who have, in large way come complete with their disturbed pasts. Silence, at any moment of our nation building project is not an option.
For Dr. Kibunja to preach, pray and plead that we give up the subject of historical injustices in the lead up to the next general elections, he has exposed the false logic upon which his NCIC is founded.
We need to plant the right seeds for our nation’s release from its shackles to an unjust past. Never will integration and cohesion be a seed we plant. These are fruits that we could harvest if we invested our politics and economics in the rights places, now. Silence about our past is not one of those fields we should sow our dreams as a people.
In my view, the NCIC has no job to do – we will not lose anything without it.
by Nduko o’Matigere, Nairobi February 4, 2013