The Grassroots Liberation Movement aims to empower community activists in the ghettos of Nairobi in their valiant fight for self-determination, against the many gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the postcolonial state and the brutal, extractive model of capitalist development it is imposing.

The Grassroots Liberation Movement is dedicated to the struggle for self-determination, or people power, across the city’s informal settlements, home to approximately 70% of the population.  These settlements are characterised by a lack of clean water, sanitation, clinics, schools, roads, or adequate housing, as well as by periodic forced evictions and systemic extra-judicial police murders.  They are sites and symbols of severe deprivation and state violence, spaces where the wretched of the earth dwell.  The inhabitants of these spaces find ourselves up against the merciless logic of capital, in lock step with a ruthless, post-colonial state – according to whom, we are but surplus, to be constricted, confined, and controlled.

In the face of these appalling conditions, the Grassroots Liberation Movement seeks to defend the principles of community mobilization, self-organization, and mutual aid.  Ours is a fight against human rights abuses, a fight for people power, and for participatory justice.

The Grassroots Liberation Movement takes particular inspiration in the valiant example of the struggle of the Kurdish Freedom Movement, perhaps especially in the re-articulation of the principle of self-determination by its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, along the lines of a project of democratic confederalism, a project which includes three main pillars: direct democracy, gender emancipation, and ecological sustainability.  Accordingly, we seek to institutionalize our project by building popular assemblies for the exercise of people power, by promoting autonomous organization of women and by introducing a co-chair system that ensures gender parity in all delegative posts, as well as by centering the struggle for ecological justice.

The Grassroots Liberation Movement believes that self-determination, or people power, constitutes the only viable and desirable alternative to the current extractivist model of neocolonial capitalist development.  It is our conviction that collective control over social-property relations, the democratic determination of the distribution of resources and opportunities, will help guarantee the provision of basic needs, enhance human dignity, and render possible ecological sustainability.  More specifically, we contend that the tyranny of money must be tamed by rendering market forces subordinate to the democratic will of territorially-based collectivities, as directly expressed in local assemblies and in confederal bodies that bring together delegates from multiple such assemblies.

We further believe that programs of civic education constitute a critical first step in the struggle for self-determination, or people power.  We maintain that civic and moral education is largely lacking in today’s world, and is sorely needed to transform passive constituents into active citizens.  Furthermore, we contend, such education can be most effectively achieved by employing the means of arts and culture.  Therefore, we conclude, the formation of historical subjects, capable of collective self-determination, requires a level of political consciousness that is systematically eroded under the tyrannical conditions of contemporary capitalism, and can only be achieved through a concerted effort at consciousness raising which makes creative use of arts and culture.

The mission of the Grassroots Liberation Movement is thus to promote self-determination and to strengthen grassroots initiatives for people power, through advancing campaigns of popular education that are intended to help transform passive constituents into active citizens.  In a word, we seek to instigate a revolution in consciousness.

Finally, the Grassroots Liberation Movement insists that self-determination, or people power, as an alternative to the current extractivist model of neocolonial capitalist development, must be simultaneously pursued at the local and global levels, that is, both below and beyond the nation-state.  Global efforts to achieve self-determination need to be grounded in local experiments, even if, at the same time, such local experiments are ultimately bound to fail if they do not spread.  Nevertheless, conditions can be identified that are ripe for the spread of local experiments in self-determination.

The Grassroots Liberation Movement contends that the context of the informal settlements in Nairobi, where people have literally nothing to lose but their chains, is exceedingly propitious for the widespread appeal of an experiment in people power, or self-determination.  In other words, we believe that the propagation of self-determination as a viable and desirable alternative to the existing global order can be meaningfully pursued through the spread of local experiments in direct democratic control in places such as the informal settlements of Nairobi, where atrocious living conditions undermine human dignity and render altogether manifest the unsustainability of the current state of affairs.  People are subjected to subhuman bondage in the context of the informal settlements.  Because of this, the effort to achieve community empowerment via collective, direct democratic control over resources and opportunities are bound to be popular, and thus could very well succeed.  Moreover, such an effort promises to provide a sorely needed model for a viable and desirable alternative to the existing order, one both more ecologically sustainable, and more capable of better meeting basic human needs, including dignity.  Crucially, if successful, this model could quickly spread across the African continent, and even beyond.

The Grassroots Liberation Movement’s efforts at consciousness-raising seek to root contemporary struggles in awareness of histories and legacies of local freedom struggles, pan-African freedom struggles, and global freedom struggles.  To this end, we seek to situate our current struggle within an understanding of local histories, including both more recent histories, such as those of the popular mobilizations that led to the drafting of the 2010 constitution, as well as deeper histories of popular mobilizations across the informal settlements, going back to the struggle for multi-party democracy, and significantly further still, at least back to the anti-colonial struggle of the Land and Freedom Army.  We know, for example, that Mathare was the headquarters in Nairobi of the “Mau Mau,” and that legacy remains tangible, not only among the legends of so many dispossessed elders, but also in relation to the naming of Mau Mau Road, which runs right through the middle of today’s informal settlement.  We seek to promote consciousness of the historical trajectory of local resistance, to trace its continuities and discontinuities, to highlight how such resistance has been perpetuated, reproduced, and transformed across generations.

At the same time, we seek to promote an understanding of the relationship between these local histories, and broader histories of liberation struggles, in both pan-African and global perspective.  Deepening and broadening the horizons of historical consciousness, we believe, helps to orient the contemporary struggle for freedom, by providing us with revolutionary role models, and with lessons from the victories and defeats of the past, both locally and in other places across the continent and around the globe, lessons which can contribute to forging a willingness to sacrifice for the communal cause.

It is for precisely this purpose of deepening and broadening the horizons of historical consciousness in our movement that we would like to propose a symposium, to be organized in partnership with Peace in Kurdistan, on the subject of “Struggles for Self-Determination in the 21st Century: Perspectives from Africa.”  In this symposium, we intend to bring together multiple generations of organic intellectuals and activists from Kenya, to help deepen our historical horizons; at the same time, we intend to invite organic intellectuals linked with other grassroots initiatives for people power, for self-determination, from across the continent, with a particular focus on Nigeria, South Africa, and the Sudan, to help not only broaden the horizons of our consciousness, but also solidify and strengthen the pan-African networks of our resistance.

In this effort, we actively seek the partnership of Peace in Kurdistan, which works closely with the Kurdish Freedom Movement, because we understand that movement to be situated at the vanguard of global struggles for freedom.  Theirs is a liberation movement that has never been defeated and that has never been co-opted.  The paradigm of social ecology and project of democratic confederalism that they have adopted, and that is inspired by the vision of their leader, the freedom fighter Abdullah Öcalan, we believe, represents the most viable and desirable alternative to the genocidal and ecocidal unfolding of the terminal crisis of capitalist modernity.  For this alternative to come to fruition, however, we believe that it is imperative for the project to spread beyond Kurdistan, and indeed, beyond the so-called Middle East, to envelop the continent of Africa, which is, after all, not only the birthplace of humanity, but arguably, the weakest link in the global capitalist and Imperialist chain.

The abduction of Abdullah Öcalan in Nairobi was indeed no coincidence.  It serves to reveal the nature of Kenya’s neo-colonial state.  It also provides a connection, in fact, the potential to forge a world-historical link, between the liberation struggle of the Kurdish people and the struggle for an end to the ills of neo-colonialism, across the African continent, and beyond.  The future of humanity and even of life on the planet would seem to depend upon the spread of the revolutionary flame.  As organic intellectuals and activists, let us not shirk this responsibility, or otherwise underestimate our role in the fulfilment of this most urgent task.



Dr. Thomas Jeffrey Miley

Lecturer of Political Sociology

Fellow of Darwin College

The University of Cambridge