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Find out what Kenya’s academia has been reduced to – Tribute to Ali Mazrui

Prof. Ali Mazrui passed on in the US yesterday 

The early years of  independent Kenya saw a lot of struggle for the expansion of democratic space and good governance from political activists and The Academia and as well as Student Leaders in
institutions of Higher Learning.

The first two governments were very rigid in their treatment of perceived “enemies of the state”
which led to arrests and detention of leading lights in the struggle for reforms and “second liberation.”

Scholars such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Alamin Mazrui, Edward Oyugi, Maina wa Kinyati, Mukaru Ng’ang’a, Willy Mutunga, and Katama Mkangi were detained without trial or forced to flee into exile.

Several more were forced to go into exile. Even though there existed imminent danger in being

seen publishing or giving public talks that criticized the government of the day, the Academia and
Student Leaders braved it off.

Is the academia becoming politically indifferent?

 Lecture halls were full to capacity when firebrand critical Professors held public discourse at the
Universities. 50 years down the line today, the results of these actions are being seen and enjoyed by all. 

There is no doubt a greater democratic space existing in the country even if not to the extent we would like to see.

What is however surprising is that with the increased democratic space, there is instead a decline in political activism by the Academia and Student Leaders. This democratic space should have been a catalyst for more activism from the “corridors of knowledge” but the exact opposite is what is currently happening.

The Academia has lost interest in coming out through Public Talks and Newspaper articles to
comment on the current political situation.

Student Leadership politics is today characterized by ethnicity and political allegiance. The fight for public good and student welfare has been replaced by greed.

Former student leaders such as James Orengo, Martha Karua, Richard Onyonka, P.L.O. Lumumba and David Murathe’s Kind of leadership that involved highlighting the ills affecting the country and championing for the rights of their colleagues, seems to have given way to student politics that is marred by ethnic tensions and partisan politics.

I use this article to mourn the passing of a great scholar and writer – Prof. Ali Mazrui. As we celebrate his well lived life, may we go back to the days of academia and student activism.
May we use our influence to spur good governance and respect for the rule of law. May we have a renewal of the vibrant academia we once had.

When University Politics degenerate into ethnic hatred, vote-buying and violence, then the era of ideology and political thinking has gone with the winds.

                                 Follow me on Twitter @IamOminde


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