In his latest article (Saturday Nation, April 1, 2023) titled 'Northlands Saga and Lesson from Ngugi, Marx and Fanon,' John Mwazemba made false linkages between Marxist thought and the recent invasion of a farm belonging to the Kenyatta family.
In an earlier article in the same paper two years ago titled 'Hustlers Versus Dynasties: Ngugi’s Prophesied Apocalypse,' Mwazemba argued that Ngugi’s novel, Petals of Blood, was the literary mirror of the ‘ Hustler-Versus -Dynasty’ narrative woven by a section of the political class.
In that earlier article, he ignored or contorted the history of liberation from a vehemently anti-left and anti-intellectual Kanu dictatorship, undermined scholarly tradition by making superficial or false linkages, and turned a political slogan into an ideological expression in a bewildering attempt to cast the authors of the hustler narrative as liberation theorists and practitioners.
In his latest article, Mwazemba outdoes his academic contortionism. He now attempts to turn thugs hired by government officials into a vanguard of a proletariat revolution.
A Daily Nation expose revealed how the raid on the Kenyatta farm was orchestrated by political actors who are anything but Marxist revolutionaries. According to the expose, the thugs were each given Sh3000.
Workers on the farm attempted in vain to call the police. It was clear that instructions to the police not to intervene had been issued. There is a reason why Mwazemba ignores history in his analyses, and that is because history would show damning contradictions and falsehoods in his argument.
So here is a bit of history. In the years of struggle against the Kanu dictatorship, it was common for the government to facilitate violent attacks on political non-conformists by hired criminals. Calling the police for help was a futile exercise.
The infamous attack on Kenneth Matiba’s home in which his wife was tortured exemplifies the modus operandi of government-facilitated attacks on critics. Those who attacked the Kenyatta farm and their government facilitators are no more proletariat revolutionaries than those who attacked and facilitated the attack on Matiba’s farm.
It should send a chill down every Kenyan spine that the attack on the Kenyatta farm followed a script straight from the dark and cruel Kanu era. First, just like critics of the Kanu government, the Kenyatta family was insulted and threatened.
Then hired goons were ferried to the location where they calmly set about their criminal project, stealing livestock, and cutting down trees with chainsaws, before setting the farm ablaze.
The criminal mayhem lasted ten hours. And just as in attacks on critics during the Kanu era, when workers at the Kenyatta farm called the police, they were told that orders had been given not to intervene. That is not proletariat revolutionary action; that is a scary throwback to an era we thought the 2010 constitution had forever banished.
The Kenyatta farm was not attacked, as Mwazemba claims because the Kenyattas belong to the bourgeois class. The attack happened because of the former president’s political stance. As such, there is no telling who else will suffer a similar attack in future because of a political view opposed to that of the government.
In the 1960s, many people supported the Public Safety Act which allowed for detention without trial. They imagined it was aimed at people other than themselves. Soon, however, many supporters of the Act become its victims. For decades afterwards, threats of detention hang over critics’ heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles.
There is something profoundly disturbing about Mwazemba trying to romanticize criminal actions that have negative implications for our nascent democracy. The criminals, in his rendition, are idealised as Frantz Fanon’s ‘wretched of the earth’. Without batting an ironical eyelash, Mwazemba elevates, by inference, facilitators of the criminal act to Che Guevara-like figures.
John Mwazemba deferentially quotes security minister Kithure Kindiki as follows: “We must protect our country from sliding into irretrievable anarchy”.
To Mwazemba, it is self-evident who the anarchists are and who the reasonable patriotic protectors of the nation are. Mwazemba, who by the way is a friend of mine, is free to sympathise with a political side.
That is his democratic right, a legacy of the struggle of others who were once labelled anarchists intent on throwing the country into “irretrievable anarchy”. What is wrong is his use of language and form of academic discourse to give ideological justification for political chicanery and criminality.
Tee Ngugi is a writer, political and cultural analyst and singer-songwriter.