October 2011. I accompany Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, then Minister for Energy and President Mwai Kibaki’s top political strategist, to an informal meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta on Mount Kenya politics. As the ‘Kibaki Succession’ looms, something tells me I am sitting with the future President of Kenya.
My worst nightmare is that with the entire region behind him, the fierce battle for his backing and attention will divide and destroy the region.
Fast forward. A decade later, On January 14, 2020, Mr Kenyatta introduces a slew of reforms to nip a sweltering rebellion in Mount Kenya. What sense do we make of this seismic shift in regional loyalty?
Obviously, the logic of the rebellion is the jostling for power in the 2022 ‘Kenyatta succession’. But what sparked off the rebellion is Mr Kenyatta’s decision in March 2018 to embrace the opposition and hew a legacy of broad-based unity to undergird a stable and sustainable development. The big question is: Why would an agenda for peace and unity by the highest office in the land draw such wrath and rebellion in the very region of the country most affected by cycles of ethnic violence since 1991?
I found answers to this and many other vexing questions in Lawrence Freedman’s nuanced book Strategy: A History (Oxford, 2013), especially his chapters on Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and ‘Satan’s Strategy’. At the heart of the rebellion rocking Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and government is a replica of ‘Satan’s strategy’, completely sheared of the pragmatism of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli’s The Prince.
Freedman anchors his profound analysis of the strategies of rebellion on the writings of John Milton, especially his epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’, among history’s most influential and impassioned defences of freedom published in 1667.
Milton, writing during the restoration of the British Monarchy and the repression after the civil war, depicts Satan as the embodiment of Machiavellianism, or the use of deception, fraudulent rhetoric and coercion to manipulate the fallen angels.
The setting of ‘Paradise Lost’ is Satan’s rebellion against God, leading to his defeat and exile to earth where he became a troublemaker, and where he reorganised and gained his first victory as the serpent, persuading Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.
In ‘Paradise Lost’, Milton maps out the respective strategic calculations in the heavenly conflict between God and Satan at the beginning of time. This conflict unfolds in two episodes: one is the great battle in heaven that God, his Son and the heavenly ghosts won; the other is the strategic response by Satan and the fallen angels to their defeat in the heavenly battle.
In a deeper sense, Milton’s rendition of first heavenly battle echoes in the Jubilee rebellion. According to Milton, in the beginning Satan — then known as Lucifer — ranks only second to God. But when God proclaimed his Son as his equal, Satan was outraged. Because God had not warned him of this development, Satan felt undermined in the hierarchy of power. He managed to rally a third of the angels behind an armed rebellion. Heaven was attacked.
On the third day of battle, God intervened, commanding his Son to lead the heavenly forces and drive the rebel angels down to hell. Satan lost.
In the second episode, ‘Paradise Lost’ depicts a belligerent Satan, an unbowed opponent of “the tyranny of heaven” and “despot God”. The fallen angels regrouped, and Satan convened and chaired a crucial strategic meeting of the leaders of the fallen angels — Moloch, Belial, Mammon and Beelzebub — to consider their next steps in their new home (hell). Moloch called out for revenge, an “open war” of attrition against heaven. Belial, more defeatist but realistic, rejected revenge, pointed to the futility of both ‘force and guile’, and called for patience, waiting God out until he relented and forgave them.
Mammon, with little taste for war and distrustful of God’s forgiveness, called on the angels to develop the infinite possibilities of hell as a rival ‘empire’ to heaven.
But like a clever chairman, Satan had crafted his preferred outcome long before the fallen angels gathered in the place called Pandemonium (literally the house of devils). His second-in-command, Beelzebub, reminded Mammon that God would never allow hell to become an equal to heaven. Instead, Beelzebub proposed an initiative that pursued Moloch’s revenge while avoiding a direct strategy of attrition.
Satan stepped in, introducing a new race called “Man”, supposedly equal to angels and perhaps created to fill the gap left by the exiled rebels, as the pivot of the new strategy to defeat heaven. The method was guile — to trick men to join the rebellion as a way of getting at God without the risks of a direct assault. After all, it was lack of numbers that led to the defeat of the fallen angels.
With Beelzebub’s plan adopted, Satan tricked his way into the Garden of Eden disguised as serpent (a Trojan Horse), hoping to conquer and colonise it with the fallen angels. He made quick wins, convincing Eve, and then Adam, to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. But Satan failed to tilt the balance of power in his favour.
Fallen Adam and Eve repented and aligned themselves to God. Satan’s strategy crumbled, revealing the limits of deceit, fraudulent rhetoric and coercion as a pathway to power.
President Kenyatta’s slew of agricultural and market reforms to “put money in people’s pockets” and the reorganisation of Cabinet to reflect the spirit of the Building Bridges Initiative may drain the swamps of grievances Jubilee rebels used to win popularity in the Mount Kenya region. But we learn from ‘Lost Paradise’ that when an enemy is able to recover from initial blows, it is difficult to inflict decisive defeat.
Professor Peter Kagwanja is former Government Adviser and currently the Chief Executive of Africa Policy Institute.
Marathoners share experience of running in empty Tokyo streets
When world marathon record holder and Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge was preparing for his now famous Ineos 1:59 Challenge — attempt to run a 42km race in under two hours — last year he specifically asked for crowds to line the route in Vienna, Austria.
An earlier attempt by the same runner to breach the two-hour barrier in 2017 at the Nike Breaking2 race in Monza in Milan, Italy ended 25 seconds short.
But on the streets of Vienna, roared on by thousands of fans Kipchoge dipping inside the mythical two hours for a marathon in an astonishing time of 1:59:40.2
He acknowledged that the screaming fans played a huge part in his successful attempt.
Exuberant fans have always been part and parcel of sport.
It was thus interesting to see the first Marathon Majors race of the season, the Tokyo Marathon, races without fans.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic organisers of the Japanese city race told fans to stay at home.
Nation Sport talked to Kenyan athletes who competed in the race that cancelled the participation of the registered 38,000 regular runners with competition only open to the invited elite runners.
Former World Half Marathon Championships bronze medallist Sally Chepyego and Frankfurt Marathon champion Valary Aiyabei were the Kenyans in the women’s category of that marathon raced on March 1.
The Kenyan runners in the men’s category had World Championships bronze medallist Amos Kipruto, Simon Kariuki, former Tokyo Marathon champion Dickson Chumba and former World Half Championships silver medallist Bedan Karoki.
According to Chepyego, who has lived in Japan for more than 10 years, it was eyrie competing in an almost empty street something she has not seen before since she started her career.
“We were lucky to compete in this years’ Tokyo Marathon edition but I must say it was different from all the other races that I have competed in because the streets were empty with no fans to cheer you on. The Japanese love athletics and you would find the streets full whenever there is a marathon race,” said Chepyego.
She said that the race had the best organisation making sure the athletes were safe with minimal interaction from the public.
“Despite the few or none fans at the streets, the organisation was good and this gave us determination to compete on that day. We had a lot of tension while competing but I’m happy we finished the race and came back home safely,” said Chepyego.
She said that after jetting back she went through various medical tests and also quarantined herself at home just in case she had have picked the virus.
“I went through various tests both in Japan and after jetting back I was given a clean bill of health. I further stayed indoors for two weeks and this is the time the pandemic was now spreading but I’m happy I tested negative when for further check-ups,” said Chepyego.
Chepyego finished in fourth position clocking 2:21:42 in a race won by Israel athlete Lonah Salpeter who timed 2:17:45 ahead of Ethiopia’s Birhane Dibaba who clocked 2:18:35 while her compatriot Asefa Kebede settled for third position in 2:20:30.
Amos Kipruto on his part said that he is still recovering after picking an injury during the race that saw him finish in 18th position in a time of 2:08:00.
Kipruto said that it was a race very different from what he is used to with empty spaces on the side of the road which normally would be packed with screaming fans.
“It was a race different from the others and this time even my friends could not meet and interact with me. We were under strict supervision and I think that saved us because our lives are more important than interaction,” said Kipruto.
He is optimistic of representing Kenya at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
“I will start training on my own in the next few weeks but also taking good measures because we need to stay safe due to the virus. I know next season we shall be able to participate in various races after the virus has been contained,” added Kipruto.
US should lead virus fight
US President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping finally spoke by telephone, suggesting a possible closing of ranks in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
President Xi reportedly told the US leader that he hoped the superpower would take substantive action to improve bilateral relations.
Coming as the infection figures and death toll are soaring, nothing could be more reassuring to the rest of the world.
Earlier, President Trump would throw jibes at China over the pandemic. In one of his epithets, he charged that the world was “paying a big price” for China’s lack of transparency on the outbreak.
Although the pandemic has its origins in the Chinese city of Wuhan, it has spread to more than a third of the globe, and the continued reference to it as ‘Chinese virus’ can only be inimical to the fight against it.
Chinese and American journalists working in both countries have found themselves in the crossfire of expulsions and restrictions on their operations, at a critical time.
There also seems to be incontrovertible evidence of the Beijing’s missteps in dealing with the contagion in the early stages.
A medical doctor who raised the alarm about the outbreak was shut down before he tragically contracted coronavirus and died.
It is time for anti-coronavirus action as opposed to trading blame.
The Chinese seem to be doing a remarkable job on this front, going by the plummeting domestic infections. They have even extended a helping hand to other nations that have the virus.
In these difficult times, conventional wisdom demands that the US employ its might to fight the veritable threat to human existence, not engage in unhelpful rhetoric.
It would be most unfortunate if the superpower is best remembered for having engaged in a propaganda war against a rival or enemy nation as opposed to helping humanity confront a common threat.
THE CUTTING EDGE – Daily Nation
HYGIENE: Gerishon Mwangi is excited about the opportunity Kenyans have to kill two birds with one stone, literally. The campaign against Covid-19, he says, presents a chance to fight cholera as well, as both have a lot to do with hygiene. He has been to market places in Nairobi and is happy that almost every trader has a little water tank and provides soap to clients to wash their hands. He is impressed to see would-be customers being encouraged to wash their hands thoroughly. “Cholera and other ailments caused by poor hygiene are being fought indirectly. May we, Kenyans, please, sustain this culture,” pleads Gerishon, whose contact is [email protected]
QUARANTINE COST: Joe Ngige Mungai is upset that any Kenyan individual or organisation would behave or act in a manner that denigrates the country. He, for instance, cannot understand why any Kenyan would not be proud of the shilling. Joe’s anger arises from a list issued by the Medical Practitioners and Dentists’ Board giving the hotel rates people arriving in Kenya and being sent into 14-day quarantine should pay. He finds quoting US dollar rates for quarantine-listed hotels rather insulting. “Let’s encourage ourselves to be proudly Kenyan. Just quote in Kenya shillings. We need to free our minds from this inferiority complex.”
BROTHER’S KEEPER: With the number of infections and deaths rising in the US, Mbiri Gikonyo is surprised that Kenya does not appear keen to assist a friend in need, and who is a friend indeed. Says he: “I’m surprised that President Kenyatta will not assist the US with doctors and other medical personnel and yet there are many such professionals, who are unemployed.” Mbiri claims there are no plans or the likelihood of these doctors being absorbed by the national or county governments. And to dispel any doubts as to what he is talking about, he says that his own daughter is one of the unemployed doctors! His contact is Tel 0733-709764/0726290815 or [email protected]
CORRUPTION: The salary cuts taken by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto and other top officials, including the Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate, Justin Muturi and Ken Lusaka, respectively, are a good gesture meant to free funds to fight Covid-19, says David Okello. However, he laments, this does not address the theft of public funds through procurement. David claims most tenders are inflated. He wishes the authorities could ensure value for the public money that is spent on the procurement of goods and services, and it’s not always about the lowest bidder. His contact is [email protected]
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