Colonial-era laws are still used to oppress LGBTQ+ Africans, writes Efemia Chela, but the struggle to organise grassroots mutual aid and for legal rights continues.
Kenya’s War of Independence: Mau Mau & its Legacy of Resistance to Colonialism and Imperialism, 1948-1990
By Shiraz Durrani
African Books Collective, 2018
Terrorists from Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab massacred 142 students at Garissa University in northern Kenya on April 2. In response, the Kenyan airforce bombed what they said were al-Shabaab camps in Somalia on April 5 and 6. Kenyan forces have been occupying Somalia since October 2011, under African Union (AU) auspices, along with troops from Uganda and Burundi. On April 7, students protested in Garissa and the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, against the seven-hour delay in security forces reaching the university during the attack.
An “extraordinary summit” of the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on October 11 and 12 took place without a threatened mass withdrawal of AU member nations from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The mass withdrawal threat was in response to the ongoing prosecution by the ICC of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice-President William Ruto. They were elected in March this year while already facing charges for political violence after Kenya’s previous elections in 2007.
The logic of terrorism is violent political theatre ― the aim is not just to inflict harm but to be widely noticed inflicting harm. From this perspective, the Somali militia al Shabaab’s September 21 seizure of the upmarket Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and massacre of at least 61 hostages, was a successful act of terrorism. But while al Shabaab successfully dominated world headlines with their brutal attack, the media has almost entirely ignored the context: the Western-backed occupation of Somalia by Kenya, Uganda and Burundi.
Everywhere you look these days, things are turning green. In Chiapas, Mexico, indigenous farmers are being paid to protect the last vast stretch of rainforest in Mesoamerica. In the Brazilian Amazon, peasant families are given a monthly “green basket” of basic food staples to allow them to get by without cutting down trees. In Kenya, small farmers who plant climate-hardy trees and protect green zones are promised payment for their part in the fight to reduce global warming.
On October 16, Kenyan forces entered southern Somalia. The invasion is aimed against the Islamist militia al Shabaab. It is in response to a recent rise in cross-border kidnappings of Westerners, with four abducted in the past month. Kenya is not the only regional country with soldiers in Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991. An African Union force of 9000 Ugandan and Burundian troops has been in the country since January 2009, when it replaced an Ethiopian force. AU troops have launched their own offensive against al Shabaab.
An estimated 2.4 million Kenyans are facing food insecurity this year. One cause is poor rains, which have affected all of north-east Africa and are probably at least partially the result of climate change. Another is the rising cost of imported food. Rising food costs are also partly caused by climate change, but also by speculation. For the finance industry, food is just another commodity to be bought, sold or hoarded to generate the most profits.
The blatantly rigged election victory by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in the December 27 presidential election triggered nationwide violence that took place largely along ethnic lines.
A mixed message combining celebration and auto-critique came from the Nairobi World Social Forum, held from January 20-25 in a massive sports complex 10km from the city. The 60,000 registered participants heard triumphalist radical rhetoric and yet, too, witnessed persistent defeats for social justice causes, especially within the WSFs own processes.
On January 24, water activists at the World Social Forum in Nairobi announced the formation of the African Water Network, to campaign against water privatisation. Hundreds of activists from groups and campaigns in more than 40 African countries committed to the new initiative. According to Ghanaian activist Al hassan Adam, The launch of this network should put the water privateers, governments and international financial institutions on notice that Africans will resist privatisation. We demand governments provide access to clean water through efficient public delivery. The network pledged to: fight against water privatisation; ensure participatory public control and management of water resources; oppose all forms of pre-paid water metres; ensure that water is enshrined in national constitutions as a human right; and ensure that the provision of water is a national project solely in the public domain.