Remembering Laikipia: The good, the bad and the pretty

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By Yasin Arkan

The Pretty

“…we have owned this land since my father and grandfather…” – Maria Dodd of Kifuko Farm

The sayer of these words could go no deeper, for there was no deeper. Neither could she show any legal mode of acquisition by her grandfather, for there was none.

Actus Reus:  Imperialist expropriation. Primitive Accumulation.

She enjoyed the utility of land acquired through expropriation by imperialist means. She did not/does not/cannot/will not own the land. Ownership requires a level of legitimacy history will never allow her, and legality can never give her. Britain’s Imperial Capitalist order dominates the land. This is the situation’s true nature of ownership.

The Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 93 of 7th December 1960 sets the basis by stating that the term “Kenya” means, the colony and Protectorate of Kenya Crown Land.

What is the “Kenya Crown Land”?

It rises from the Crown Lands Ordinance (C.L.O) of 1902. This was the moment of original sin. This is the moment that set the stage for the conception of Maria Dodd as a colonist. The Crown Lands Ordinance “let there be” and there was. In 1902, her grandfather landed in the newly expropriated paradise; Laikipia, Kenya. This is why she could go no deeper.

In a later interview probably instinctively sensing the illegitimacy of her earlier position on the “how” of her land acquisition and ownership, Maria Dodd submitted weakly how they were the ones who made the land useful and the Maasai were envious interlopers into the paradise “they” had created by the sweat of their brow. She had now turned Communist.

Mens rea

Albert Memmi reveals in his magnum opus The Colonizer and The Colonized (gender paraphrased for relevance), “It is impossible for her (Maria Dodd, the Colonizer) not to be aware of the constant illegitimacy of her status…”

He continues, “…she is a privileged being…” (As we witness from the reaction of the Government of Kenya to her plight in comparison to its reaction to the plight of native subjects), “…an illegitimately privileged one; that is a usurper… this is so, not only in the eyes of the colonized, but in her own as well.”

The hypocrisy and intellectual knavery of Capitalism and its Imperialist method, is here revealed.

And this perverse capitalist-when-profiting communist-when-losing (profits are mine, losses are ours all) hypocritical rationale is, strangely, prevalent to the point of total consensus in the new “Happy valley”. As the Laikipia Farmers Association, which represents the colonists descendants in its demand for the Government to give them special protection used this apologetic, says, it has employed more than 5,000 people and funds local social development projects worth Sh5 billion annually.

They have morphed from colonists to ranchers to conservationists and now believe it or not to “Social Development-preneurs”, all to mask the illegitimate nature of their acquisition and possession of vast tracts of native lands. The silence of the tribes led the colonists to think the expropriation long forgotten. Even ILRI (the International Livestock Research Institute), a fellow beneficiary of this century old land grab seems to have co-opted this argument in its defence. Its chief executive officer submitted to the public how many poor people he and his institution had helped by dispossessing their land and using it for Research.

It seems necessary to state the obvious in order to correctly set the basis of conversation: The use of the land is inconsequential to the discussion of the unjust nature of Imperialist expropriation. No utility argument is acceptable to defend foreign expropriation and continued ownership of 8,000 square kilometres of vast plush pasture by “others”.

The additional insult that over 100 years of poverty, landless-ness, BATUK (British Army Training Unit Kenya) rape and prostitution of native girls, murder, killings of children by unexploded ordnances, destruction of culture, can be traded with 5,000 opportunities to be slaves to the robber barons themselves, must of necessity be overlooked in light of the crimes they must one day be held to account for.

Maria Dodd’s low melanin, though highly conspicuous and a critical criterion in the social order of Imperialism, is inconsequential to this submission as, again, Albert Memmi accurately describes her in The Colonizer and The Colonized (again, gender paraphrased for relevance): “Her gullibility lies in the fact that to protect her very limited interests, she protects other infinitely more important ones, one of which she is, incidentally, the victim. But, though dupe and victim, she also gets her share.”

She is a coloniser. She is an aberration on the land – an aberration that only manages to defy natural correction by sheer imperial military force. She is the forward base of imperial power. She is the sentient node in the capitalist matrix, while Brooke Bond, George Williamson, Rea Vipingo and others are the mercantile nodes. Each plays its own unique role in maintenance of empire.

The comprador-bourgeoisie are the vital political node without whom empire would collapse. They are discussed next.

The Bad

Lawrence K. Freeman’s paper, explanatorily titled “To Understand the Crisis in Kenya, Know the British Empire”, accurately also explains British investment strategy in all its colonies in all its gore: “To wit: steal the land for its resources, use the natives for slave labour, and get rid of the excess population.”

This is Imperialism’s definition and it’s method of acquisition.

This expropriation, enslavement, pogrom and genocide is what the now late Major Nkaissery, in swearing to uphold “Private Property Rights”, swore to protect.

Kenya’s suzerain Britain, after the Laikipia killing quickly dispatched its Foreign Minister – flyting Boris Johnson, on 17th March 2017. He came to receive assurance and pledge of continued allegiance to empire from the President in person. He welcomed the President’s deployment of NOT local Police, but of “our” presumed Army, to protect the land Empire dispossessed from natives of Laikipia.

The Empire felt the prick, and had to stop to remove the grain of sand that had got in its boot. The repeated mention of “Private Property Rights” by officials is extremely significant as the Government of Kenya is infamous not just for failure to protect “Private Property Rights” but to consistently totally violate the said such.

There were no calls for protection of “Private Property Rights” where any of the political violence victims were natives, anywhere from the Lakeside to the Coast.

But for the colonists, even corrupt elected officials who are normally cold and indifferent to the cry of their own people, respond with uncustomary alacrity.

The Good

Let us set the stage with the famous “‘5 Monkeys and a Ladder’ Social Experiment” fable.

A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage, and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on top. Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water. After a while, every time a monkey would start up the ladder, the others would pull it down and beat it up. After a time, no monkey would dare try climbing the ladder, no matter how great the temptation. The scientists then decided to replace one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did was start to climb the ladder. Immediately, the others pulled him down and beat him up. After several beatings, the new monkey learned never to go up the ladder, even though there was no evident reason not to, aside from the beatings. The second monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same was repeated. The fourth monkey was changed, resulting in the same, before the fifth was finally replaced as well.

What was left was a group of five monkeys that – without ever having received a cold shower – continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

Does this sound at all familiar?

Certainly. At least up to the first monkey. In our case, Laikipia, we will never get to the second monkey.

After witnessing what our fellow monkey, Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel faced, whatever banana’s lie up the ladder remain safe to be eaten by whoever lives up the ladder. Not even his Party Leader the revolutionary-turned-capitalist Raila Amolo Odinga who true to secular political doublespeak, while expediently calling for pogrom in Narok through one side of his mouth, would condemn and disown Mathew Lempurkel’s call for restitution. Then performing a somersault one month before the August 2017 election, declaring that if elected, he would “Rationalise Land in Laikipia” (sic), following it with a double back-flip days later through his spokesperson to deny ever having said he would do anything about the Laikipia land problem.

The accuracy with which this modern day fable, captures our harsh reality literally, metaphorically and socio-anthropomorphically is bizarre. The group of cold, detached, godless, heartless Imperialist scientists; the evil social experiment with a false banana-republic command economy and political order; the torturous jet of cold-water; the bounded nation-state prison cage; the enforced tribal amalgam of banana-loving monkeys; the artificial corporate ladder and the ever-receding capitalist mirage of success, the dangling bananas.

In spite of our ill-fated hero, Mathew Lempurkel’s failure or inability to lead us to any, even weak, form of restitution, he did succeed in communicating to the colonial imperialists that we have not forgotten and we have not surrendered.

The monkeys in the cage still remember, even after generations of dispossession, pogrom and genocide, that it is the “scientists” who belong in the cage. And that the lush paradise the scientists currently desecrate with their “Happy Valley” ways, is the monkeys’ true domicile. The monkeys still remember…what the Monkeys need now is a Social Experiment of their own, an Ideology.

Which way forward?

The cul-de-sac of a Peruvian Revolutionary you have never studied, the economics of an American intellectual you were probably never taught or the exegesis of a Palestinian jurist and political ideologue you probably never heard of? ^

Next month: Between the Shining Path and the Enlightened One

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