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Mageuzi Instigators Insist On Mass Action

By Njeri Rugene, The Nation (Nairobi), 12 November 2000

Nairobi - Despite President Moi's order against rallies organised by Muungano wa Mageuzi, the lobby group has lived to its word and proceeded with its countrywide meetings as if the October ban never existed.

In their latest rallies, Mageuzi instigators have told Kenyans to brace for what they are calling "large scale mass action" beginning next month.

But the politicians are treading carefully. Going by past experience, they are cautious about calling for mass action before they are sure Kenyans, whom some in the group have described as a docile lot, are "fully" sensitised and mobilised to embrace the call. Kenyans, are being cautioned to be ready to sacrifice their time, their resources, and even their lives, to force the government out of power.

"The world is changing and citizens are telling autocratic leaders enough is enough. Just recently, it was in Cote d'Ivoire where people forced their president out and now in the Philippines it is the masses that are forcing their president (Joseph Estrada) out. Kenya cannot be an exception," Ugenya MP James Orengo declared at last Saturday's Machakos rally.

Runyenjes MP Njeru Kathangu says quoting from the Bible: "Jesus said that all those who wished to be free have to deny themselves and sacrifice. What Christ is saying here is that one cannot be liberated unless he or she sacrifices fully."

According to the lobby group, the Opposition has tried and failed in all other efforts to bring President Moi and his government down, and rather than wait for him to resign, they are telling Kenyans to force him out of office.

The politicians are working on the premise that it was through pressure from the people and mass action that President Moi accepted multi-partysm.

"Mass action is the only language President Moi understands and Kenyans must recognise that fact," says Mwea MP Alfred Nderitu.

Alego Usonga MP Peter Aringo says the group is calling for nothing short of a "popular uprising to get President Moi out."

However, the Mageuzi mass action call which is being roundly condemned by the group's critics including Opposition leader Raila Odinga, has received mixed reactions from the other Opposition MPs.

Some Opposition and Kanu MPs opposed to the group say its founders are radical and abrasive legislators fronting a selfish political agenda. A section of their colleagues see them as "anarchists" whose mass action call is just but a cover for violence.

Says Kanu's Peter Maundu: "Although the current situation (in the country) calls for change, I shudder at the thought of street violence. Although Mageuzi is doing a good job of sensitising Kenyans and pricking their conscience to realise the task ahead, they must guard against anything that will cause harm to Kenyans."

Mr. Maundu, the Makueni MP, calls for caution, urging his friends in Mageuzi to strive to do things that would be seen to bring harmony in the political scene so that the movement is seen as capable and responsible. "Right now, the leadership of this country is in transition and we must encompass all shades of opinion. If we want a successful transition exercise, there must be tolerance of ideas, which include denouncing violence as a means of getting change," Mr. Maundu said.

The MP advises the group "to consult more" with party leaders if they have to succeed in their initiative.

Mr. Nderitu and Mr. Kathangu defended their group against the notion that their call is a pointer to violence. Whenever the Opposition calls for any anti- government demonstration, it is the police who provoke violence, they said.

Said Mr. Kathangu: "When the police react violently, the people react in the same manner. What Mageuzi is advocating is civil disobedience and we can assure the police that if they react violently, they will be met with similar violence."

However, the Democratic Party expresses its support for the mass action call. The party's Shadow Attorney-General Kiraitu Murungi says although his party has been planning its own mass action programme, it supports the protest call as a way of removing President Moi and his government from power. The party, he says, is yet to implement "its actual time table" for mass action.

Said the Imenti South MP: "There are certain things that can only be expressed in the language of the street. The problem in this country is that the right to peaceful protest and mass action has been converted into a privilege to be enjoyed by groups that support Kanu and the government," Mr. Murungi said.

According to Mr. Murungi, anybody who supports democracy should support the right to mass action. We went into the Inter-Party Parliamentary Group consultations because we thought we could negotiate with President Moi. I now realise that it is not possible to negotiate any reform with him nor expect any major constitutional reforms when he is in power."

He adds: "Moi moves only one inch when he is under extreme pressure.

And immediately the pressure goes down, he moves two steps backward.

That is why we (DP) support any group that gives him pressure because that is the only way we can move forward in constitutional reforms."

But Mbita MP Otieno Kajwang (NDP), assistant ministers Fred Gumo and Adams Karauri and Nominated Kanu MP Grace Mwewa dismiss the group as self-seekers whose actual interest is to cause violence.

Mr. Kajwang and Mr. Karauri told the Mageuzi group to wait until President Moi's term is over and seek re-election and then demand reforms through Parliament, "if they are democrats".

"You do not accept the institution of Parliament on one hand and draw a salary from it and negate its existence on the other. They should not have one leg in Parliament and the other in the street and purport to be crusaders for anything. I hope they are genuinely agitating for civil reform not a coup," Mr. Kajwang said.

According to Mr. Kajwang: "Mageuzi has no agenda. The only thing that unites them is the urge to replace President Moi with one of them. But sooner or later, they will be on each others throat as to whom the legitimate leader is. They should first define what they want otherwise we shall be justified to believe their intention is to cause chaos. Replacing Moi with any of them cannot be reforms."

The NDP legislator accuses the group of attempting to take Kenyans into a situation of uncertainty by calling for mass action.

Siakago MP Justin Muturi (Kanu) describes the call as misplaced saying the prevailing situation does not call for mass action.

Though the group is reluctant to divulge the specifics of their activities, most members have been at pains to explain that theirs will simply be a call to peaceful civil disobedience.

The Mageuzi group is trying hard to remain focused on its stated objective and its core appear jittery and irritated when other leaders who address their rallies appear to digress from this.

At the Machakos rally for instance, Juja MP Stephen Ndicho and lawyer Kauma Musilli evidently made the group uncomfortable with remarks they made at the podium. Mr. Ndicho revisited his pet call on landless Kenyans to invade chunks of land owned by foreigners and in fact led the heated crowd in expressing solidarity with his call.

Kimilili MP Mukhisa Kituyi was so incensed by the remarks that when his chance to make an address came, he only spoke for about two minutes during which he absolved and disassociated Mageuzi from Mr. Ndicho's call.

Similarly, Mwala MP Mutua Katuku, was quick to describe as personal views, Mr. Musilli's support of the beating of cabinet minister Sam Ongeri at the funeral of South Mugirango MP Enock Magara.

Mr. Kathangu says while some leaders who address their rallies may not be aware of the movement's objectives as agreed in the group's caucus, some leaders make unwarranted and emotional issues which the group does not support. He notes that some of the things that have come out of the rallies are not in Mageuzi's programmes.

He says: "What we expect is that the leaders coming to these rallies would be cautious enough to consult some of those who have been there earlier on certain issues before they bring them to the rostrum, unless they want to create confusion and misunderstanding," says Mr. Kathangu.

Investigations by the Sunday Nation also reveal that some political party leaders are deeply suspicious about the political motives of the lobby group, but for now, they only express their opposition to it behind closed doors, aware that it would be suicidal politically to openly oppose it. Although the group may not be numerically strong, so far, its rhetorical crusade overshadows the routine political activities of their party leaders. The leaders have thus decided to adopt a wait and see attitude, as the best strategy, the investigations reveal.

But NDP leader Raila Odinga dismisses Mageuzi as a grouping of "bankrupt leaders and self-seekers with no agenda for the country".

Says the Langata MP: "The language they are using is of blackmail, threats and intimidation which is the language of cowards and paper tigers. They have no agenda or anything to tell the people nor do they have any solutions to problems afflicting the country. Kenyans know what is ailing the nation and are tired of repetitions. What they are interested in is a solution to the problems not chest-thumping counter-revolutionaries."

He accuses the lobby group of seeking to impose their will on the people, saying that extremism of any kind is dangerous as it is a threat to the very survival of the State.

Singling out former cabinet ministers Kipkalya Kones and Simeon Nyachae who are a vowed supporters of Mageuzi, Mr. Odinga says democratic change cannot be realised by mere substitution of players or actors on stage.

"Qualitative changes will only come along where there is change of policies, ideologies and programmes. This group is bankrupt in that regard. It will be an exercise in futility to try to go for a change of guard at State House,"said the NDP leader.

Mr. Kathangu says he is aware that mainstream party leaders see the movement as a "psychological war" against the bosses, by seeming to by pass them and appeal directly to their supporters. That the group is out to re-arrange the political landscape in such a way that the party leaders will have no choice but to ultimately join the movement as junior partners, or risk being politically irrelevant. Says the Ford Asili MP: "Each of those party leaders want individual power and nothing more, which is not the ultimate for Muungano. Our interest is to promote dialogue so that we are able to guide the nation."

"Those pointing fingers at us like Raila (Odinga, NDP leader) must know that it is political fatigue created by political party leaders that has pushed us to form a political movement to motivate and enhance dialogue among members of all political parties," Mr. Kathangu said.

But defending himself against claims of dishonesty in the struggle for change, Mr. Kones says he has always advocated for change and that was what led to his first sacking as a cabinet minister in 1997.

"When we went into IPPG, I sincerely thought there would be comprehensive and serious constitutional reforms. When I saw Kanu dragging its feet and diverting the process, I felt unhappy and disagreed with them for demanding that the stakeholders' resolutions be respected. I have been unhappy about this all along," Mr. Kones said.

The Bomet MP says one of the main reasons why he supports Mageuzi is because the group is genuinely addressing constitutional reforms. "I have a strong belief that in this country, parties are in a very fluid situation. They do not qualify in their capacities to change the constitution and usher in good governance," he says.

Mr. Kones adds: "Parties are still jostling for political positions and should not be used as a basis to change the constitution for now." "People must stand out to refuse certain things. Kenyans must be allowed to send out clear signals to the government that they are not happy with the things that are infringing on their rights," Mr. Kones says.

While addressing mourners during Mr. Magara's burial, Ford-Kenya leader Michael Wamalwa appeared to support the movement. However, a day later, he was quoted in a section of the press dismissing the group.

But talking to the Sunday Nation, the MP denied uttering the words attributed to him, saying the remarks were actually made by his Kwanza counterpart Noah Wekesa.

On the Mageuzi mass action call, Mr. Wamalwa said he supported "any form of change and movement that can remove Kanu from power." Social Democratic Party leader Charity Ngilu made her first appearance at a Mageuzi rally in Machakos saying that change had to come now as a priority.

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