It is time – Indians in Kenya should
Decide their future, once and for all
Fear grips the hearts of the Indian Community in Kenya whenever any political change takes place. Starting from the time of Independence in the year 1963 to the time of the last elections of December 2012, Indians have been under fear of their future and stability in Kenya. There are very few Indians on the Kenyan Land who have continued to believe in their future in Kenya, and these Indians are quite happy and very settled in the country of their adoption.
They consider Kenya to be safer, more secure and more peaceful than their country of origin. They have had ugly and disastrous experiences of India and they find Kenya far better, as the problems in Kenya are small compared to India, and there is very little fear compared with that of found on the Indian continent, especially in parts out of Gujerat.
No doubt the experiences of the Indians staying in Nairobi City and around have some awkward and unpleasant experiences but the source and the channel of income seems to be much easier and workable. They overlook and sustain the fear and the difficulties faced by them in the city life compared to the income and luxurious life in the same city. It is in Nairobi City that their movement around after six o’clock is not safe. The other centers are alright.
And they should never overlook their good stay in India is entirely as the fruit of them being in Kenya with good money and better culture and discipline. Kenya has one of the best discipline records of Indians in religious, social and political sectors. The life style is quite different from that of Europe and America. The Indians have maintained the Indian culture, much better in Kenya, compared to those who live in London and other western countries.
There are still good and respective relations between the young and older generations. The good and beneficial orthodox systems still prevail in the Indian community of Kenya. Hindus stay united in a better way and all the Hindu festivals are properly observed. There is no grudge as such seen among the Hindus, Muslims and Christians. They stay as bonafide Kenyans and respect the faith of each other. They all study together in the same school without any problems and they participate as Indians and Asians in the National Functions as united people.
There were several Indians who left Kenya before Independence due to the fear of the African Rule. They were worried of their safety and security under the Leadership of Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of the Independent Kenya, just because he was the leader of the Mau Mau Freedom Fighters who were fighting against the British Rule. Indians very firmly believed that Jomo Kenyatta – once released and made the leader of the country in the African rule – would expel all Indians from the country, snatch their commercial properties and hand them over to the African people. It was their fear.
But when Jomo Kenyatta took the leadership of the country, the Indians had very good prospects and an important role to play which was much better than during the British Era. They were given high posts in the Government departments and in the private sectors where previously the Whites had dominated. The Indians became the main streams of the Kenyan economy and business. All those who had left Kenya in fear regretted their hastily taken decision and many of them returned back to take the golden opportunities. Kenya under the rule of Africans turned out to be much more beneficial and fruitful for Indians than the British Rule.
Although at events President Kenyatta in his local speeches threatened to expel Indians, it was just to please his people who were not happy with the Indian’s domination in the small sector business, which they could easily handle and run. They were also not happy with the harsh attitudes of some Indians towards them in daily life. But overcoming this just required a change to the rough attitudes of some Indians, and a requirement to behave with respect towards the independent Kenyans and to allow them to earn their bread from the small business sectors.
Then there was Exodus period in the year 1968 when the British government offered all the British subjects to enter Britain within the given time to settle there as citizens and thousands of Indians left their places of work and sold their properties to their relatives and entered Britain to face a very difficult life there. They took a very long and tough time to see the future in England as it was very difficult in the beginning to get the jobs and locate safe places to stay. The local people were very harsh towards the Indians as if they were unwanted people.
All those who had stayed in Kenya with full confidence in the Kenyatta Government and the local people, enriched themselves from the vast development sector where the employed Indians started their own businesses with little money and prospered with success and they became millionaires within a few years with their own houses, motor cars and a reasonably good bank balances. The money earned from Kenya enabled them to stay peacefully in India later on as the money they had earned in the decade helped them to buy good houses in India and lead a very peaceful retired life.
With the death of the President Jomo Kenyatta in 1978, Indians were afraid of the next Presidentship as the Vice President Daniel Arap Moi took over as the successor of the First Father of the Nation. He had earlier threatened the Asian Community to be expelled from Kenya if he came in power. But after his visit to the deserted Uganda of IDI Amin, who had expelled all Asians from Uganda within three months of his curse, Moi had hardly anything to speak against Asians in Kenya. He had seen the worst parts of Ugandan economy being ruined in the absence of Asians who were the real backbones of the progress and prosperity of Uganda.
Later on, the expelled Indians were requested to return back by the new Ugandan President Musevoni and their snatched properties were given back to them with the assurance of safe stay with respect.
However President Moi was not against Indians monitoring big business, trade and Industrial sectors and he had no objection to Indians being in important jobs and sectors, but he was after settling his people in small sectors. He was more against those Indians who were involved in big business sectors and earning large amount of money and transferring the money to overseas bank accounts through illegal transactions. He wanted those Indians to send money overseas only to the agreed amount and invest the rest in local industry to open up chances for his people in employment. He was never against the Indians who took care of the indigenous people while earning good income. Later on he became the right shield for the Indians and Indians wished him to be in power for longer as they found themselves secure under his rule.
Indians were in very good terms with President Moi and they found him to be the well wisher and the only savior of Indians. The Nyayo Rule under the Presidentship of Moi GAVE INDIANS A GOLDEN OPPURTUNITY IN BUSINESS SECTORS. The community in general led the Kenyan economy through out the country and they made millions within the short period.
Hindu Council of Kenya, the general body of all Hindu organizations of Kenya, assembled under one roof and achieved freedom in religion by having their own Hindu Syllabus in the schools in CRE period. Diwali was recognized as the public Holiday for Hindus and the local TV reserved one hour of Special Diwali Program to be handled by Indians. Indians had full freedom of worship and even to celebrate social functions. Huge Temples and community halls in main centers apart from Nairobi were seen during his tenure.
In 1982, in the August, the government of President Moi was toppled by some rebellions and again the Indian Community was under the shadow of fear. Most of the Indian shops and houses were raided and looted by the African people, particularly by the rebellion Army and the group of thugs, robbers and jobless people. Indians were in the houses with no protection and no business property, which was openly looted by the rebellions and anti-Indian elements. Even the Army and the police on duty were busy collecting expensive items from the houses and shops of the Indians instead of providing them with protection.
Most of the shops and houses of Asians on River Road and around in the Capital Nairobi were completely looted and Asians were helpless at the mercy of fate and God. It was a shameful act of the wayward local people and the rebellion army force.
The loyal army to the President Moi took control of the situation and within the couple of days the situation was under control and President Moi (in his first public statement over TV and Radio) assured the Indians of their safety and security and asked them to have patience and courage. He apologized for the misbehavior of the people and the rebel army and gave full protection to all Indians under fear.
Many of the Indians who were the victims of the August 1982 coup and looting, and all those who had witnessed the dangerous scenes closed their businesses and left for the U.K or India or other places of safety. Those who came to be settled in India were annoyed by the inconveniences facing them due to riots and communal clashes now and then, and they found no proper protection from the Government and found themselves in more un-secured place than in Kenya. Corruption was in abundance and honesty was not to be found.
From 1984 to 1994 the Indians prospered in business and made lots of money. The construction business boomed and thousands of new Indians arrived in Kenya for work. Work permits were easily granted on the terms of gifts and friendship. The imported individuals from India were given very high salaries and they even saved good amounts within a few years of their service. Thousands of good future- seeking youngsters were seen on the Kenyan land and they earned quite a reasonable amount within their granted work permit period of two years. There were several illegal individuals who worked secretly with their relatives on the prolonged visiting pass for one year and these people equally earned a good salary.
The murder of the Luo leader and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ouko moved the political world and President Moi became the target of the opposition from Luos and the Kikuyus and Indians became the target of political propaganda once more. Indians were robbed and looted; their shops broken and burned and several Asians kidnapped and murdered. The fear of terror moved the Indian hearts and several Indians decided to leave the country before the multi-party elections.
Indians settled in America, England and many in Australia. Very few diverted their minds towards India… They felt that India would be the last country for them to settle, as the corruption, bribery and the tribal disturbances and now and then aggressive strikes of taxis, buses, banks and other public sectors had already harassed them during their visits to their homeland.
President Moi came out as the winning hero in the multi-party elections of the first time and the Indians breathed a sigh of relief. The government rule was successful up unto 1996, but thereafter the economy and the business came to near standstill due to the blockages of Foreign Aid which was said to be highly mis-used by the Moi Government. President Moi became an unpopular President because of his long stay in Power against the wish of the majority of the citizens in Kenya and due to a very high corruption in his government as a whole. His return to power for an extra term brought lot of problems in the country and the economy almost came to a standstill. Almost all foreign aid was frozen or barred.
The Indians were jobless and with an unknown future. Business was very dull and the future dark. The severe shortage of electricity and water nearly closed the business and Industrial sector, which was dominated by Indians. There was hardly any business in the shops and the building industry. Nairobi became the center of looting and robbery. Some Asians were kidnapped and some were also killed during copious robberies.
Most of the people who had come in large numbers from India and who were on work permits came on the roads with a life struggle for survival. They were forced to return back to India on the borrowed finance for their travelling expenses.
Another batch went to settle in America, Australia and England. Very few tried to settle in India, which they found very difficult to settle because of mass competition and gross corruption. The Kenyan Indians found it difficult or at least not very easy to mix and settle with their counter parts in India. The long standing residents in Kenya even found it difficult to mix socially with their own relatives and community members. They found life in India very different to that of in Kenya.
Obviously they found life in Kenya much better and convenient. Kenya had given them everything they needed to survive and the freedom of stay and worship except the looting and robbery in major parts of Nairobi. The Indians staying in other centers like Mombasa, Nakuru, Meru, Kisumu, and Eldoret were quite alright.
The wealthy survived on the rent from their premises and the bank interest and many of them spent a part of their savings to pass the weaker period which they thought would improve within couple of years. There were a few people who had engaged themselves in big farms survived well, as the farming business was not touched by the crisis. They owned or hired very big farms and employed a few of their relatives in the farm and they enriched themselves by getting good vegetable products. There was never a shortage of water for them as there was enough rain twice a year and they could also use the river water to their requirements.
President Moi became so un-popular in his last years of rule that even the foreign donors warned him to step down for the sake of the country, and he was compelled to call for fair elections. And as he could not be accepted as the next President by the majority of the local public and the western donors, he proposed Uhuru Kenyatta, the youngest son of the Late President Jomo Kenyatta and his second wife Mama Ngina as the Presidential Candidate from the ruling party Kanu.There were very few Kikuyus in Kanu, the ruling party, and no other candidate other than Kikuyu could be the next President of Kenya. Perhaps President Moi was the first and the last indigenous President of Kenya. As he came from a backward tribe from Baringo District, he was backed by the indigenous people in the beginning but his long rule could not get any sympathy or support from the major tribe Kikuyu who had been the prominent Freedom Fighters and the people who were supposed to rule.
President Moi even failed to get the full support from the Luos, who were the second largest tribe of Kenya after the Kikuyus. Luos in general were not on good terms with Kikuyus and President Moi had the upper hand because of their support. But the situation was quite different after the murder of the Luo leader, Mr. Ouko. Luos thought that President Moi was responsible in the murder of Ouko.
In the last elections of December 2002, the opposition had gathered together and formed the coalition and had proposed Mwai Kibaki as their presidential candidate and he came out with a vast majority of winning votes and was sworned as the third President of Kenya. Kanu, the ruling party in power since the time of Independence in 1963, was defeated and the united front Rainbow, the coalition of nearly eight political parties came into power with Mwai Kibaki as the leader.
Mwai Kibaki was the previous Vice-President in the Moi Government and he supported the President for a long time. He formed his own party DP when the first multi-party elections were forced to be done by the donor countries in the year 1992. He was the last Minister to leave President Moi and to form his own opposition party. His party did not do well during the previous elections and this time during the last elections he consulted the number of opposition parties and formed the coalition to fight Kanu candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and he won the election by a good margin.
Asians were once again unsure as to whom they should vote for at that time as although they were on good terms with President Moi they were not confident of his return in power. Although they supported the Kanu candidate and the Moi successor Uhuru Kenyatta, they tried to maintain good relations with the opposition leader Mr.Mwai Kibaki who was not on very bad terms with the majority of Asians. Some of the Indian traders saw Kibaki as the threat for the several shop owners as he had used the words against such shopkeepers in his election propengenda.
There were several members in his group of other parties who were openly against the Indian stay in Kenya if they came in power. But with Mwai Kibaki in the Presidentship, Indians didn’t have much to worry about as he turned out to not be against Indians as they had feared. He seemed to be against a few Asians who had made money through false means and who had worked against the Nation for their personal benefits. The bonafide Indians had no need to worry or fear. After all Mr. Kibaki was a true statesman and a very well experienced and strong politician.
Indians should have stayed with full confidence and without any fear in Independent Kenya and could have made their future much better as the problems and lack of security they faced in Kenya for few years could not be worse than their own motherland India. For them life in India was not an easy affair and those with a large financial source found it difficult to settle into India in the apparent democratic atmosphere.
Their settlement in countries like Australia, America and England was ok to a certain limited standard, but had they stayed for longer in Kenya and considered themselves to be part and parcel of the country.
Their unsettled minds and their winding up the hardly achieved commercial sectors very badly affected the Kenyan economy. Most of the donor countries and the foreign investors lost their grip over the economy of the country due to the mass of Indians leaving Kenya for ever.
At present, under the able leadership of President, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya as a whole is doing well in all sectors. Private construction jobs are growing and many Indian faces are seen in Nairobi and other towns of Kenya. Very many people from India have started entering Kenya with a hope of a good future. Most of the Indians staying in Kenya are quite rich and with several properties. The future is good apart from some ups and downs.
The opposition party under the harsh leadership of Luo leader, Mr. Raila Odinga, the aggressive son of the famous Freedom Fighter, late Odinga Oginda brought some fear in the country by provoking tribalism where again the innocent Indians were the scape goats. They were under fierce fear for a few months especially the Indians in Kisumu. President Kibaki brought the situation in control by settling Raila Odinga as the Prime Minister in his cabinet by changing the constitution.
In the fresh elections Kanu won the elections and Uhuru Kenyatta took over as the President.
The present situation is normal and all those Indians who are loyal to the Kenya Government and the country as a whole need not worry or fear at all. The Nation under the able leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta is quite stable and progressive. The Indians should take more part and show their interest in the local programs and show practically that they are part and parcel of the Nation in all respects.