Kenyan explosion rooted in land theft and the capitalist crisis


KENYA has been convulsed for nearly a week by an uprising of the poor and the landless who have been absolutely pauperised by the impact of the massive increase in oil prices on the Kenyan economy, and in particular on the millions of landless poor.

More than 300 people have been killed and at least 70,000 driven from their homes across Kenya since Sunday in violence that was triggered by an attempt at election rigging by President Mwai Kibaki to keep out his rival Odinga who claims to represent the poor and the oppressed.

The EU and US, plus Prime Minister Brown and US Secretary of State Rice have agreed to push Kibaki and his opposition rival to form a coalition government.

However this humpty dumpty cannot be put back on the wall, for the simple reason that the millions of poor are now starving and desperate to get their hands on the land that their predecessors were evicted from by British imperialism and which they have not yet been able to reclaim.

In the 1950s, the Kenyan landless poor through the Mau Mau Land and Freedom movement sought to regain the land from the white settlers. Their brave attempt to seize the land against thousands of British soldiers failed, but forced a British withdrawal, and independence, which saw the taking of political office by a black leadership.

What it achieved was an adjustment in land ownership, making use of the laws left behind by the imperialists, which saw it sharing the land with the White Highland settlers, leaving the mass of the indigenous black people with nothing.

The top 20 landowners in Kenya share close to 2.5 million hectares of arable land.

Half of Taita Taveta, in the Coastal province is owned by just three landlords (the Kenyatta family, the Criticos family and the Kenya wildlife Service) while the Pokot pastoralists are squeezed into one small corner as their ancestral land in Trans Nzoia is owned by a handful of politicians and bureaucrats.

The Kenyatta family owns half-a-million acres of land, approximately the size of Nyanza Province — according to estimates by independent surveyors. Behind the Kenyatta family come the Mois the Kibakis and the other new landed gentry.

In fact the three families are among the biggest landowners in the country.

A residual class of white settlers and a group of former and current politicians in the post independent regimes follow them closely, while a few businessmen and farmers, many with either current or past political connections, also own hundreds of thousands of acres.

Meanwhile five million Kenyans are squatters.

According to the Kenya Land Alliance, more than half of the arable land in the country is in the hands of only 20 per cent of the 30 million Kenyans. That has left up to 13 per cent of the population absolutely landless while another 67 per cent on average own less than an acre per person. Mwai Kibaki owns tens of thousands of acres of land.

The plain fact of the matter is that independence did not return the land to the dispossessed. It created a new class of black bourgeois farmers.

What Kenya requires is a socialist revolution that will expropriate the bourgeoisie and return the land to the millions that were dispossessed.

Kenya however will not be the last of the new African states to explode.

In post-apartheid South Africa the masses are angry that the ending of apartheid did not see any improvement in their standard of life, while it gave the black middle class their longed for place in the sun.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, millions are demanding that the workers and the poor benefit from the oil wealth, and that the corrupt bourgeoisie be expropriated and overthrown.

Socialist revolutions are set to explode throughout the African continent.