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[This presentation was made by Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba at a Public lecture at the University of Nairobi on 30th July 2015, at the invitation of the Kenya Law Students Society.]

 

Introductory Remarks

In 1966, the Chinese Premier, Chau en Lai made a tour of East Africa. He came to Kenya and made a statement that Kenya ‘needed a revolution.’ War of words ensued; the ruling elite would not hear of ‘revolution’. In retrospect, given what our countries and our peoples have gone through in the last five decades, the Chinese Premier was right; sub-Sahara Africa emerging from colonialism needed revolution.

The countries of East Africa including the Sudan were without exception under British colonialism for varying periods of time. On independence, the ruling elite that inherited the colonial state had in front them only two socio-economic development trajectories open to them: -

Either

·         They followed the road to true freedom and national sovereignty, which leads to national democratic revolution to unite the democratic and anti-imperialist forces:  of peasants, workers, intelligentsia and small business and students; to place the country on non-capitalist mode of socio-economic development; construct a national commonality or identity, which trumps family, ethnic or regional tendencies.

Or

·         They followed the road to capitalist mode of socio-economic production and neo-colonialism; become an appendage of world capitalist system controlled by the World Bank and IMF, tied the country to uneven terms of trade; exploit the peasants and workers; construct instruments of repression to intimidate masses into submission and emptied the independence of its nationalist and patriotic content. ….

The political elite in these countries invariably chose the neo-colonial path to socio-economic development maintaining the link to the metropolitan countries and world capitalist system established during the colonial rule.  

·         They organized national politics not on the basis of ideas and practical programmes for transforming the colonial state into a national democratic state encompassing all the citizens; no they organized national politics on the basis of personalities and political patronage. The result was that ethnic and religious sectarianism dominated the political parties e.g. KANU and KADU (Kenya), UPC (Uganda), UP, NUP, PDP and LP (Sudan).

·         The ruling elite promoted patrimonialism, which engendered patronage and clientelism leading to the emergence of such syndromes as ‘baba ya taifa/, ‘baba ya wanainchi’, ‘big tribes’ ‘small tribes’, tribal alliances and associations, etc., and adopted  trans-class solidarities - what is usually known as tribalism; ethnicized the national politics particularly in the context of struggle and completion for power and wealth giving rise to ‘tribal’ alliances and solidarity groups; empowered their tribesmen and women economically; located projects like schools, health centres, roads, bridges, etc., to their home turfs; engaged in land grabbing; encouraged tribal conflicts, entrenched and enhanced corruption in government and society and the culture of graft.

·         The national economy remained extractive tied to the metropolitan market just to produce raw materials: cotton, tea, coffee, pineapples, banana, hides &skins, etc. The unfair terms of trade meant exploitation of our peasants and workers as they paid more for the industrial goods and received less for the agricultural products.

·         The state in East Africa, except in the Sudan, made it impossible for workers and peasant to organize themselves for collective bargaining of their economic, civil and political rights rendering them indifferent to the social and political engineering of the state. In the Sudan workers and farmers trade union, as well as the student, movements were well organized and developed and the political actions led to the popular uprisings that brought down the two military regimes of Abboud (1964) and Nimeri (1985). 

This political configuration generated contradictions between the neo-colonial state and the masses of the people who wanted to liberate themselves from economic exploitation, marginalization, social discrimination, and political exclusion and/or repression. These countries went through crises of successful and failed military coups. Sudan (1958, 1969, 1989), coup attempts in Tanganyika and Kenya were foiled through the intervention of British forces stationed therein (1964, 1982), in Uganda there was a palace (1966) and military (1971) coups; in the Sudan armed rebellions (1955 and 1983), mass uprising against military dictatorship (1964 and 1985), armed insurgency in Kenya (1964-1968) violent change of government, state induced ethnic strife in Kenya (1992, 1997), elections induced ethnic conflicts, land grabbing, pauperization of the masses, crime and insecurity in the urban centres; livestock rustling and abject poverty in the rural communities, etc.

It could be said with confidence that the social, economic and political straits our countries and people have gone through since independence, and which manifest in many forms perpetuated by the regimes in power like corruption in government and society, political repression manifested in the brutality of the police and security agents; economic exploitation, social discrimination, abject poverty, landlessness, ignorance, disease, crime etc., are all pangs of neo-colonial socio-economic development trajectory our leaders took on independence.

It was a conscious decision to maintain the colonial state and its institutions that entrenched exploitation, societal domination, brutalization, dehumanization, syndromes of inferiority, fear of the state and state officials particularly the police and the army; and on the other hand to forestall the revolution; suppress and delay the emergence of the national democratic forces. This explains the prompt intervention of the British to quell the military coups that occurred in East Africa in 1964. After that they trained the security and intelligence agencies the techniques of torture of political dissidents. 

EXPERIENCE FROM SOUTH SUDAN

The SPLM is a case of failure to learn from own or mistakes of others; as a result it has condemned itself and the people of South Sudan to perpetually repeat the same mistake over and over again. 

Until 9 July 2011, South Sudan was part of the Sudan. In fact, the history of modern Sudan starts with the Turco-Egyptian occupation of northern Sudan in 1821. Sudan became a Condominium of United Kingdom and Egypt following its re-conquest and defeat of the Mahdists State in the Sudan (1881- 1898). The Mahdists revolution overthrew the Turco-Egyptian state (1824 – 1885). The Sudanese people voted for and declared independence of the country in the Parliament on December 19, 1955 and just requested the Condominium powers to leave on 31 December 1955. So the Sudanese people woke up free and independent on 1 January 1956.

The Arab dominated northern political elite, which inherited the colonial state, organized national politics along religious sectarian lines and defined Sudan along two parameters of Arabism and Islam. They considered the Sudanese nationality as a transition to integration into Arab Umma and Islam. This neo-colonial political dispensation precipitated two civil wars (1955 and 1983) in Southern Sudan, which constituted the weakest link in the oppressive, exploitative and discriminative system instituted by the Arab dominated northern political elite.

The SPLM/SPLA waged a relentless ‘revolutionary’ armed struggle against the regimes in Khartoum. Comprising predominantly of the peasants, workers, students, intellectuals, military officers and men/women – constituting the elements of the national democratic revolution, the SPLM/A emerged from the poorest, economically underdeveloped, politically backward parts of the Sudan. However, and in spite of this reality, the SPLM/SPLA leadership raised socialist slogans and immediately linked up, albeit for a short time, with the anti-imperialist, and the national democratic revolution forces in regions of the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes: EPLF (Eritrea), Derg, TPLF, OLF (Ethiopia), NRM (Uganda) and RPF (Rwanda).

In spite of the high sounding socialist sloganeering, the SPLM/SPLA leadership did not start from a correct analysis of the objective reality obtaining in the country. A revolutionary leader must start from concrete reality of his country to inform his political objectives. This anomaly was to have a negative impact on the development of the SPLM/SPLA into a genuine national liberation movement, and driver of the national democratic revolution in the Sudan. The SPLM had no political ideology and therefore its leaders were not able to marry theory and practice in the execution of the revolutionary armed struggle; simply there was no theory and therefore could not craft a political programme for transforming the oppressive reality which submerged the masses. The SPLM contended with the populist slogans it raised only for mobilization and recruitment into its ranks and file.

The SPLM/SPLA remained a militarist organization. It shunned political education and organization of the masses, preventing the emergence of social awareness and political consciousness. It is not possible to engage in political action without political organization. Similarly, no liberation can occur without political consciousness; being its main tools. It would be like liberation ourselves with the tools of domestication. Thus instead of mobilizing the masses in order to take charge of their destiny the SPLM neutralized them and rendered them spectators in their own course. Consequently, the SPLM/SPLA produced a political military elite completely alienated from the masses.

The SPLM’s lack of institutions and no democratic structures meant centralization and personification of SPLM public power and authority. This was to be the source of internal political contradictions that more often than not were resolved militarily through internecine fighting, which permeated and filtered down to society along ethnic fault lines. The split with Anya-nya II (1983/4), the Nasir Declaration and the sweeping revolution (1991), the Yei crisis (2004) and the split (2013) that now precipitated the current civil war.

The lack of unifying political ideology meant that the dominant relations therein were based not on ideology or politics but on patrimonialism which entrenched political patronage and clientelism. This internal situation in the SPLM/SPLA coupled with external factors e.g., the collapse of Derg in Ethiopia, the SPLM/SPLA main benefactor and the collapse of the Socialist camp that witnessed a shift in the alignment of forces in the region, triggered a paradigm shift in the SPLM/SPLA from ‘New Sudan’ to ‘Southern Sudan’. From 1991, Southern Sudan, instead of the New Sudan became the main thrust of the SPLM/SPLA political and military struggle. The concept of a socialist secular New Sudan disappeared imperceptibly from the written and oral literature of the SPLM.

The split within the SPLM/SPLA in 1991 and the internecine fighting that followed impacted negatively on the SPLM/SPLA shifting the balance of forces in favour of the National Islamic front’s (NIF) government enabling it to recapture large areas the SPLA had liberated. The regional attempts to resolve the conflict began in earnest in December 1993. By September 1994 the IGAD sub Committee on Conflict in Sudan, Chaired by Kenya had produced the Declaration of Principles (DoPs) as the basis for negotiating the peace. In the end the SPLM, opted for compromise with the NCP and the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) was initialled in Nairobi on 9 January 2005, which stopped the war. The CPA provided for the exercise by the people of Southern Sudan of their right to self-determination and on 9 July 2011 South Sudan became independent.

This independence marked a new beginning that makes South Sudan and its people join the people of East Africa together in a journey of destiny notwithstanding the near five decades time gap. A footnote to this is that the British had since 1932 wanted to annex South Sudan to the British East Africa. This was suddenly reversed in 1946 due to its interests in Egypt (Suez Canal). It seems South Sudan is following the path trodden by Kenya and Uganda in terms of its neo-liberal policies pursued by the ruling elite. Barely three years into its independence, South Sudan is embroiled in a bitter civil war. What happened?

The bourgeois petit at the helm of the people’s movement, by their social nature and class interest can never provide successful leadership to a revolutionary people’s movement. Somewhere, in the course of war of liberation they recovered their mental compass and retraced their social roots. Wherever, the bourgeois petit led an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist people’s movement they sooner than later recoiled towards the bourgeoisie ideology to reverse the gains and victories the people have achieved in form of raised social awareness and political consciousness. In the word of Amilcar Cabral, the bourgeois petit can successfully lead only if they commit ‘class suicide’ to resurrect in the guise of revolutionary peasants and revolutionary workers or intellectuals. This is pertinent in the case of South Sudan.

The SPLM/SPLA epitomizes that notion of bourgeois petit, at the helm of a people’s revolutionary armed struggle, having refused to commit class suicide and consequently aborted the national democratic revolution. As a result, the SPLM leadership jettisoned the vision of ‘New Sudan’ together with the concepts of freedom, social justice, equality, and prosperity for all, encapsulated in that vision. The SPLM political military in alliance with the most reactionary elements of the NCP regime, other Southern political parties and similar elements in the East Africa region have instituted the most corrupt, totalitarian genocidal system unprecedented in South Sudan. South Sudan is now a police state. How do we explain this contradiction?

The mistake of belittling revolutionary politics in the conduct of war of national liberation produced messengers at variant with the message they carried. It produced an anti-revolution caste that saw its social and economic interests as nothing but looting the resources to enrich themselves. In ten years and nearly thirty billion US dollars of oil revenue, the SPLM government of South Sudan did nothing to transform the lives of the people of South Sudan. On the contrary the bourgeois petit have stashed the money away into foreign lands.

South Sudanese political and military elite own real estates in Nairobi, Kampala, Khartoum, Melbourne, Silicon Valley in California, USA, London and Khartoum, etc.  South Sudan has only one 193 KM tarmac road linking Juba to Nimule at the Ugandan borders built with aid money. Juba Airport surpasses Nairobi Wilson Airport in the number of light aircraft servicing the towns of South Sudan because there are no pave roads. A journey by car to Yei one hundred miles south-west of Juba takes about ten hours. Juba is called ‘generators’ city’ because there is no single power supply. Children in Juba born in 2005 are growing up without the knowledge of tap water. Juba imports everything including fish from East Africa mainly Uganda. South Sudanese in their tens of thousands study in Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia even at primary level because there are no schools. It was better during the war, the SPLM with the help of NGOs did run schools.

Throughout South Sudan insecurity including armed robbery and ethnic strife characterised the interim period particularly in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal to the point that it jeopardized the conduct of the referendum. The ‘one country two systems’ provided by the CPA during the interim period resulted in independence of South Sudan. It however entrenched in power in the Sudan the oppressive National Congress Party (NCP) system while in South Sudan it produced a mirror image repressive regime in Juba. Salva Kiir constructed a system representing the social, economic and political interests of a sub ethnic elite hailing from his home turf in Warrap state

The situation was such that war had to break out. The fundamental contradiction that triggered the war in 1983 had not been resolved. The same mistake the SPLM did compromising with the NCP in the CPA (2005) is in the making right now in the name of anticipated ‘IGAD compromise peace agreement on the South Sudan conflict’. The SPLM/A in opposition failed to transform the civil war, which although essentially a political contradiction between the reform group represented by Dr. Riek Machar and the group for status quo represented by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, was trigged by the massacre of ethnic Nuers in Juba in December 2013, into a revolution to encompass the democratic forces in the country.

The IGAD formula will stop the war for thirty months, the duration of the transitional period, but the war may break out again because the political objectives: social justice, equality, freedom will not be met by this compromise notwithstanding that the time is very short. This brings me to the theme of this panel discussion. 

THERE IS NO THIRD SIDE OF THE COIN

To answer the question whether or not there is a third side of the coin we in East African countries fail to see, I would say there is no third side because there are only two sides of the coin. There is capitalist and non-capitalist mode of social production. This brings us back to what Chau en Lai said, ‘Kenya needs a revolution’; a revolution which puts the masses of our people at the centre of our socio-economic and political discourse; a revolution that puts them in control of the means of production particularly land; a revolution that transforms their means and relations of production; this is the national democratic revolution. It may be peaceful or violent but must be democratic.

The national democratic revolution is the continuation of the anti-colonial anti-imperialist struggle our people undertook to free themselves from colonialism and its institutions. Our people struggled for freedom to enable a return to human history as free people; hitherto we were part of the European history. The national democratic revolutionary forces comprising the peasants, the pastoralist, the workers, the intelligentsia, the small business not linked to world capitalism and the students need to mobilise, organize and coalesce together around a revolutionary programme for transforming the colonial legacy in the country. 

The principal contents of the revolutionary programme are:

·         Construct a national democratic state that is free from colonial legacy in which the masses enjoy freedom, equality, social justice and are able to create wealth for improve quality of life; a conscious and active mass able to build bridges of solidarity with anti-imperialist forces in the world;

·         Emancipation of the economy from world capitalism by pursuing an non-capital mode of production in which the masses are in control of the means of production;

·         Address the national/ethnicity question in order to resolve this problem of disparity and uneven development by according each and every ethnic group their right to participate in the national social, cultural, economic and political life of the country. The national democratic state will ensure the visibility and audibility of all nationalities/ethnicities and provide them with material and technological resources to build their languages and cultures.

·         Launch agrarian reforms involving addressing the issue of land and its equitable distribution, sustainable utilization, etc., and launch a revolution in agriculture (crop and livestock sectors) in order to modernize it benefiting from the development in science and technology.

·         Launch an industrial revolution; building power and transport infrastructure as prelude to industrialization and all out development of the country.

·         Spark a cultural revolution through literacy campaign, political education to raise self- awareness and political consciousness leading to change of attitudes and perception of reality. The fundamental goal of the national democratic revolution is the emergence of an individual unfettered by archaic tradition and customs; and to promote the emergence of national commonalities that trump tendency to family, clan, ethnicity and region. 

 

In a nutshell, the national democratic revolution and political programme for transforming the lives of our people is the only way out- may be could be the third side of the coin. The different levels of social, economic and political development of our countries will dictate the methodology and tools of struggle for achieving the objectives of the national democratic revolution. The credo of Pan-African movement is ‘organize do not agonize. Let us organize!! Thank you very much.

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