Editorial: Dark Clouds Gather, Terrains of Struggle

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This 5th issue of Ukombozi Review is a collage of debates. It comes out at a time when some dark clouds have gathered.  The dark clouds of Covid – 19 pandemic are yet to clear, actually, they are thickening with some regions in Kenya currently in a partial lockdown. Across the border, the death of Tanzanian President, Joseph Pombe Magufuli, has rattled mixed reactions and legacies. The reactions have been on the whole positive going by varied views from some comrade activists in Tanzania and elsewhere who regarded him as a champion of the underclass. He was walking along the paths of Nyerere, they say, vigorously championing nationalist causes and interests against those of imperial powers and their local puppets. 

In Kenya, the country’s constitution is still on the chopping board of tribal chieftains and material interests of the ruling classes. The social movement of our times is still in birth pangs, the interregnum whereby the old is dying and the new is yet to be born. Various movements are still jostling for attention, relevance and recognition, some feeling we have arrived, that chest thumping idea of we are the ones we have been waiting for. Times could still be nigh. The reality is dawning that the timing of a social movement is as important as its birth. Positioning of the left in the emerging social movement would be the game charger, but it is still a tall order. Time will tell.

What is at stake is not a mere change in leadership. This is a moot agenda, often bypassed by times. The circus of elections has been happening in the country after every five years. In fact, elections in the country are not considered seriously as such, but a general ethnic census showing the mobilizing prowess of tribal chieftains with varied maxims; we are being finished, it’s our turn to eat, etcetera. What is at stake is about progressive leadership that will work in a team to radically alter our body politics by making imperial interests and those of greedy capitalists subordinate to those of the underclasses and the quest for just social order. Poetic voices come into play into this quest for just social order? Whither are the progressive artists for this cause? The artists who will enable us to question the meaning of nationhood, of the so-called independence and the purpose of art, prophets and seers of the wretched who can lead us on the frontlines of the struggle? An article in this issue reflects some aspects of the struggle of the poets and the pen. Religion is traced in this issue as a tool of imperialism. Karl Marx would raise thumb on this. He spoke of religion as the opium of the masses. The so – called global trade is also unpacked in a related article as an agent of imperialism whose mission is to submerge countries in the global South and their people deeper into poverty and wretchedness.

But not all is gloom. Progressive artists are still visualizing horizons of hope. The late Papa Brass is celebrated in poetry. His real name was Francis Kang’oroti Gitau, the legendary reggae DJ of yesteryears. Mashujaa page extols Koitalel arap Samoei, the hero of the Nandi Resistance and African Nationalism. Dr. Willy Mutunga offers some critical reflections on the keynote address titled, Do Constitution Matter, by Prof Issa Shivji at the re-launch of his book, Constitution making from the Middle: Civil Society and Transition Politics in Kenya, 1992 – 1997, in 2020 during the celebrations to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.  

Enjoy these and many more readings in this issue, and as usual, share your feedback with us. We reiterate our oft call for submissions. If you aware or engaged in a people’s struggle that is worth attention, reflecting, amplifying and connecting, write about it, sharing your story, your experiences, or even your anger in any form or genre, be it an article, poetry, short story, drama, drawing, cartoon, photograph, song, or any form of story-telling. Ukombozi Review is there for this. To amplify, reflect and connect people’s struggles.  

Njuki Githethwa
Managing Editor

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