VOICE OF LIBERTY AFRICA: How I Became a Libertarian – Alex Ndungu Njeru


I was born in my grandfather’s home, deeply nested in the Laikipia plains, a place where rains often failed and condemned the villagers who either depended on the rain for crop farming or pastoralism. For the large part my maternal grandmother brought me up for my formative. I loved her a lot. Though l later moved in with my parents in Nyahururu town, around 80 miles away from the village of my birth where I had my education, I maintained a strong connection with the Ol-moran, first because my heart had already established Ol-moran as the arena of my dreams, and second because my grandma treated me like a prince, she would leave no stone unturned in getting me my favourite delicacies; roast gwaci’ and ‘nathi’ .

Those who were aware of the political environments in Kenya in the 1990’s know that those were tumultuous times for the country, there were ethnic clashes every half decade and more so after the general elections. Ol-moran was mostly affected because it lies right at the demarcating point between southern crop farming communities and Northern pastoral-nomadic communities. The clashes of culture and the economic ways of life sometimes were manifested in the most ugly and violent of ways. My grandfather went from a proud owner of a sizeable herd of goats to a man without any.

Thus the long trek from my grandmother’s home to the Pokots to barter grain for milk was born. I liked tagging along, I liked the feeling of the first rays of the morning sun on my forehead, kicked hedgehogs on the way, watched ostriches scamper away and the Zebras graze gracefully, quite oblivious of the file of humanity’s women with grain laden baskets on their backs with the expectation that they would go home in milk.

Trade in many ways brought the locals together, tribal enmity was forgotten when trade was going on. That was especially evident on market days, which the locals auction, happened every Tuesday of the fortnight. The energy, the perfumed ointments that locals applied on the market days were a sight to behold. Traders came from hundreds of Kilometres away. There was an unspoken code of  conduct during market days tribal flare-ups and altercations were rarely witnessed during these market days. In essence the market spaces for individual traders were no more than spaces dug and raised on patchy and dry ground, they were unmarked to say the least but each and every trader knew their ground and a place of work. I was amazed the other day when I visited my grandpa and realized that a beautiful modern town was raising around the market place. All modern with, bars, electricity, Digital Satellite Television halls for the purposes of catching the English Premier League and all other characteristics of a modern City.

The people of Ol-moran be they pastoralists or crop farmers had poverty common. Earlier in life I always wondered why the government would not do something for their poverty, because I thought that the government had it in them to solve mankind’s problems. Today, I am none the wiser I certainly know that no government can lift people from poverty without driving other sections into poverty. That the only way to solve mankind’s poverty was to let mankind’s ingenuity take lead, because every man and woman is born with the insatiable desire and zest to improve their lot that is true for those born into royal families as well as the sables.

My moment of epiphany came in when I was researching for Africanliberty.org’s essay competition. Sponsored by Network for Free Society, it was then that I realized the greatest fallacy that was about Africa’s economic history. Over time we had it ingrained in us that it was second nature for Africa to be collectivist and live in a communal. African economic history selectively left out the aspects of pre-colonial Africa where African’s owned; hunting tools, land, animals. Sections of African history where individuals and particular communities were known for one trade or another, say; metal working, pottery and other trades was also relegated to the periphery.

Since I discovered the greatest lie that ever was about Africa’s economic history I have lived my life trying to alter that. I want Africa and the world see the true picture of her economic history.


Alex Ndungu Njeru is the project manager East African Policy Centre and wrote in from Nairobi, Kenya

Alex tells a short story of rural Africa and pre-existing trade and his personal experience