Report & Essay

Kwani (Statement by the President)

 The following excerpts are taken from the government’s Sessional Paper Number 10, published in 1965 and co-authored by Mwai Kibaki.

Statement by the President:
Since attainment of our Independence just over eighteen months ago, the Government has been deciding the measures that will ensure rapid economic development and social progress for all our citizens…
All along the Government has been guided in its approach to developmental matters by the declarations contained in the KANU Manifesto. In this we declared that our country would develop on the basis of the concepts and philosophy of Democratic African Socialism. We rejected both Western Capitalism and Eastern Communism and chose for ourselves a policy of positive nonalignment. 
Our entire approach has been dominated by a desire to ensure Africanization of the economy and the public service. Our task remains to try and achieve these two goals without doing harm to the economy itself and within the declared aims of our society.
To the nation I have but one message. When all is said done we must settle down to the job of building the Kenya nation. To do this, we need political stability and an atmosphere of confidence and faith at home. We cannot establish these if we continue with debates on theories and doubts about the aims of our society. Let this paper be used from now as the unifying voice of our people and let us all settle down to build our nation. Let all the people of our country roll up their sleeves in a spirit of self-help to create the true fruits of UHURU. THIS IS WHAT WE MEAN BY HARAMBEE.

Jomo Kenyatta


The ultimate objectives of all societies are remarkably similar and have a universal character suggesting that present conflicts need not be enduring. These objectives typically include:
i)political equality;
ii) social justice;
iii) human dignity including freedom of conscience;
iv) freedom from want, disease, and exploitations
v) equal opportunies; and
vi) high and growing per capita incomes, equitably distributed.
Different societies attach different weights and priorities to these objectives, but it is largely in the political and economic means adopted for achieving these ends that societies differ. These differences in means are, however, of paramount importance because ultimate objectives are never fully attained. Every time one target is attained a new one becomes necessary. Indeed, we forever live in transition.
The system adopted in Kenya is African Socialism.

In the phrase “African Socialism,” the word “African” is not introduced to describe a continent to which a foreign ideology is to be transplanted. It is meant to convey the African roots of a system that is itself African in its characteristics. African Socialism is a term describing an African political and economic system that is positively African not being imported from any country or being a blueprint of any foreign ideology. The principal conditions the system must satisfy are:
i)it must draw on the best of African traditions;
ii) it must be adaptable to new and rapidly changing circumstances; and
iii) it must not rest for its success on a satellite relationship with any other country or group of countries.
There are two African traditions which form an essential basis for African Socialism – political democracy and mutual social responsibility. Political democracy implies that each member of society is equal in his political rights and that no individual or group will be permitted to exert undue influence on the policies of the State. The State, therefore, can never become the tool of special interests, catering to the desires of a minority at the expense of the needs of the majority. The State will represent all of the people and will do so impartially and without prejudice.
Political democracy in the African traditional sense provided a genuine hedge against the exercise of disproportionate political power by economic power groups. In African society a man was born politically free and equal and his voice and counsel were heard and respected regardless of the economic wealth he possessed. When this is translated into our modern state it means that to participate in political matters and party activities as an equal, the individual must prove nothing beyond age and citizenship and need take no oath beyond allegiance to country.
Political democracy in the African tradition would not, therefore, countenance a party of the elite, stern tests or discriminatory criteria for party membership, degrees of party membership, or first and second class citizens.
Mutual social responsibility is an extension of the African family spirit to the nation as a whole, with the hope that ultimately the same spirit can be extended to ever larger areas. It implies a mutual responsibility by society and its members to do with very best for each other with the full knowledge and understanding that if society prospers its members will share in that prosperity and that society cannot prosper without the full co-operation of its members. The State has an obligation to ensure equal opportunities to all its citizens, eliminate exploitation and discrimination, and provide needed social services such as education, medical care and social security.

Drawing on this background African Socialism expects the members of the modern State to contribute willingly and without stint to the development of the nation. Society in turn will reward these efforts and at the same time will take measures against those who refuse to participate in the nation’s efforts to grow. Sending needed capital abroad, allowing land to lie idle and undeveloped, misusing the nation’s limited resources, and conspicuous consumption when the nation needs savings are examples of anti-social behavior that African Socialism will not countenance.

Marxian socialism and laissez-faire capitalism are both theoretical economic organizations designed to ensure the use of resources for the benefit of society. Both settled on the ownership of property as the critical factor in the economic organization and advocated rigid systems based in the one case on State ownership and in the other on private ownership. But ownership is not an absolute, indivisible right subject only to complete control or none. Practical systems have demonstrated that the resources of society are best guided into proper uses by a range of sensitive controls each specifically designed for the task to be performed.
Marx’s criticism of the society of his time and place was a valid one. Political equality and democracy did not exist in Europe and Great Britain before the middle of the nineteenth century, when Marx was writing. The enclosure movement and the industrial revolution had created a landless proletariat that was ruthlessly exploited by those with economic power who had much the same absolute rights as those of the feudal lords. Sharp class distinctions had been commonplace for centuries; the close association of political and economic power was traditional; and the general welfare was identified with the welfare of the few. The Industrial Revolution brought out the worst elements of the situation – hours of work were dawn to dusk; few safety precautions existed; there was no job security or protection against injuries, illness and old age; children started work as early as the age of four; and no established avenues of political appeal existed. The situation was one of government by the few, sharp class distinctions, unfettered property rights, subsistence living standards for the masses, and exploitation of a large and growing proletariat.
Valid as Marx’s description was, it bears little similarity to Kenya today. Under colonialism Kenyans did not have political equality or equal economic opportunities, and their property rights were not always respected. Even so, African traditions have no parallel to the European feudal society, its class distinctions, its unrestricted property rights, and its acceptance of exploitation. The historical setting that inspired Marx has no counterpart in independent Kenya.

African Socialism must be politically democratic, socially responsible, adaptable and independent. The system itself is based on the further idea that the nation’s productive assets must be used in the interest of society and its members.
There is some conflict of opinion with regard to the traditional attitude towards rights to land. Some allege that land was essentially communally or tribally owned; others claim that individual rights were the distinguishing feature; still others suggest that ownership did not really exist in any modern context in many African tribes. Undoubtedly these traditions differed substantially from one tribe to another. In every case, however, and in sharp contrast to the European tradition, ownership was not an absolute indivisible bundle of rights. The ultimate right of disposal outside the tribe was essentially tribal and in this land was tribally owned. It must be remembered, however, that the political arrangements within the tribe were such that every mature member of the tribe would have a say in such a decision. Short of this right, others were assigned or allocated to clans, families, and individuals, including the right to transfer and reclaim property within the clan. Rights to use land were, in effect, assigned in perpetuity to various groups within the tribe, subject always to the condition that resources must be properly used and their benefits appropriately distributed.
The rights normally associated in Europe with ownership as such scarcely mattered.

The sharp class divisions that once existed in Europe have no place in African Socialism and no parallel in African society. No class problem arose in the traditional African society and none exists today among Africans. The class problem in Africa, therefore, is largely one of prevention, in particular:
i)to eliminate the risk of foreign economic domination; and
ii) to plan development so as to prevent the emergence of antagonistic classes.
In addition, Kenya has he special problem of eliminating classes that have arisen largely on the basis of race.

The concept of political equality in Africa rules out in principle the use of economic power as a political base. The vigorous implementation of traditional political democracy in the modern setting will eliminate, therefore, one of the critical factors promoting class divisions. The policy of African Socialism to control by various means how productive resources are used eliminates the second of the factors supporting a class system. Without its two supporting allies, the concentration of economic power cannot be the threat it once was.

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