NAIROBI (PANA)—Like hundreds of thousands of his compatriots,
Michael Karanja, who lives on the fringes of one of the large scale
White-owned agricultural farms in Kenya’s Thika District, some 30 miles
east of Nairobi—has been following with keen interest the ensuing feud
in Zimbabwe between Pres. Robert Mugabe and White land holders. Mr.
Karanja is especially interested in the European Union’s sanctions
against Pres. Mugabe.
He says Mr. Mugabe is right to want to re-allocate stolen and unused
land now owned by Whites to Black war veterans. Mr. Karanja also says
that other African leaders are doing a disservice to the continent by
not coming out openly to support an embattled freedom fighter.
"Mugabe is being vilified for standing up for the rights of his
people. This land, the so-called farmers in Zimbabwe are now claiming to
be theirs, was taken from Africans in a way of robbery, because they do
not have the supporting documents to show that they rightfully bought it
from Africans," charged Mr. Karanja, a 59-year-old father of six. And he
is not alone.
Pres. Mugabe might be unpopular to the West and White Zimbabwean
community, but he appears to be gaining support in Kenya where the issue
is quite emotive because of the similarities in the two countries’
The Lancaster House (London) served as the venue for independence
talks for the two countries—Kenya’s in 1960s and 1970s for Zimbabwe.
So, to the ordinary man on the street, scholars, politicians and even
journalists in Kenya, Pres. Mugabe is right and Western powers are
applying double standards to protect their cousins.
The rallying cry for the independence fathers in both countries was
land, which they felt was wrongly wrenched from Africans.
Like in Zimbabwe, the White Kenyan settler community owns the choice
agricultural land leaving the majority Black population on less
Dennis Akumu, a former Pan-African Trade Unionist and ex-MP, is a key
member of the Pan-African Reparations Movement (PARM), a group that has
been vocal in support of Pres. Mugabe’s cause.
"People the World over are talking of equity, transparency and
democracy. But these three virtues cannot exist in a country where the
majority have been marginalized and their leaders ostracized (for
pointing out the injustice)," he says.
John Kamau, editor of the Nairobi-based Rights Features Service, an
NGO on human rights issues, agrees with Mr. Akumu.
According to Mr. Kamau, "there is no way any sane government in the
world would allow 98 percent of its population to live in near penury
while less than two percent own parcels of land they do not even need."
He argues that at the Lancaster House Conference, it was made clear
that the White farmers had up to 1990 to either develop their land or
give it up to the Zimbabwean government.
The same document gave the government the right to nationalize all
land not developed or nationalized, he said.
Mr. Kamau dismisses the argument that the EU sanctions were imposed
because of Pres. Mugabe’s "dictatorial" rule, saying the West has never
cared about who is elected president in Africa so long as he played by
"Haven’t we had Idi Amin Dada (Uganda), Marcius Nguema (Equatorial
Guinea), Mobutu Sese Seko (ex-Zaire) and Siad Barre (Somalia)? An
elementary student of history would tell you that these (people) were
maintained by Western support," he added.
Veteran journalist Phillip Ochieng, in a Sunday Nation article
titled, "Fleet Street’s Jungle Justice in Zimbabwe," accuses the Western
press of conspiracy against Pres. Mugabe.
Rejecting the forceful taking over of farms by Black Zimbabweans, Mr.
Ochieng, however, feels the reporting is biased.
"But from what moral (ground) can you preach law and fair elections
to them (Zimbabweans)? Fair elections? Why haven’t you applied sanctions
on George W. Bush for rigging himself to the most powerful office in the
free world?" he asked.
Whether Pres. Mugabe succeeds in his mission or not, he appears to be
enjoying large support from Kenyans, who may not influence developments
in his troubled country.