Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Raila Odinga does battle with the forces of darkness

Written by Solomon Gakungu Tuesday, 25 September 2007

After waiting a long time, we have seen a circus of tribal chiefs supporting President Kibaki's re-election as they launched PANU, a coalition whose aim is to maintain the status quo at all costs. By their speeches it was quite apparent that they live in morbid fear of one Raila Odinga. Ministers Chirau Mwakwere and Simeon Nyachae captured the frustration and fears of the ruling class against the indomitable ODM flag bearer.

On June 7th last year, I had predicted in a local daily that a Moi/Kibaki/Kenyatta axis would inevitably emerge if ODM flag bearer Raila Odinga clinches the ODM ticket. In light of this, the dramatic endorsement of Mwai Kibaki by Moi, and then Uhuru Kenyatta, did not come as a major surprise. I have deliberately mentioned the two since they are the main pillars of this reactionary group.

Ironically, most analysts seem to have entirely missed the point. Some argue that Moi's decision is informed by the 2002 loss of power by Kanu, which fact has led to this revenge mission against the man who plotted Kanu's 2002 defeat, Raila Odinga. For Uhuru Kenyatta they cite ethnic interest. Closer analysis shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

Before my analysis on the opportunistic move made by the two leaders, it is my considered opinion that Raila Odinga remains the most misunderstood and vilified leader in Kenya, largely due to moves engineered by a class of political buccaneers who have expropriated the country’s wealth with outright abandon. If his name featured in the Kroll and Associates report, that would have been big news but as one will realize, there is symptomatic silence over the criminal theft of 130 billion Kenya shillings by the political class as expressed in that report. This money is enough to run the CDF kitty for close to 15 years at a rate of Ksh. 50million every constituency per annum.

A Kenyan slum & Raila's development record
Raila Odinga is blamed for poverty levels in the Kibera slums but few remember how the Treasury torpedoed his visionary move to build 150,000 houses for the poor. To make matters worse, after coming up with the much-acclaimed housing policy, none other than President Kibaki himself took this docket away from the control of Hon. Raila and put it under Hon. Kimunya, the then Ministry of Lands. The question is founded on faulty reasoning in any case given that Kenyans do not pay taxes to Hon. Odinga. Why are we praising Mwai Kibaki for his government’s successes but looking to pass the buck onto others when the government has failed to address the most abject poverty as seen in these slums? And if Raila Odinga is to blame for Kibera, how will one explain the poverty levels in other slums like Mathare, Soweto and Majengo, which are not in Lang'ata constituency?

The media is also culpable for this skullduggery. Early this month, a small caption in the inside pages of a local daily captured my mind. Pictured was a lorry that had been loaded with donations of medical supplies worth Ksh. 7 million from the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation. There's little attention given to these efforts, in stark contrast to that given to the self-righteous Hon. Raphael Tuju. The media have taken to portraying the Rarieda MP as the one who is “working” among the Luo leaders, even as others politick endlessly.

Let me now go back to the gist of my analysis: is ex-president Moi's opposition to ODM really driven by revenge? Under Moi's watch, Raila spent a cumulative 8 years in detention due to his relentless crusade for good governance, democracy and social justice. During the confinement, the indefatigable freedom icon lost his mother and only came to know of it 4 years later. His family also went through a profound anguish during this period of detention as police continued to harass them incessantly. It is also worth noting that Raila Odinga's opposition to Moi did not spring from poverty, or a lack of success. He had already curved a niche for himself as one of the young pioneer industrialists in Kenya and was a senior manager at Kenya Bureau of Standards, which he had played a critical role in establishing in the early 1970s. Few people will abandon that kind of comfort to fight for the down-trodden. In the same vein, few will forgive their tormentors or even have the tolerance to face them after losing the prime of their life in solitary confinement.

So the question remains: is it Moi that ought to forgive Raila because of a simple thing like an electoral defeat, which in reality benefited the man he is backing today, or is it that Raila that suffered the greater wrong?

It is rather curious that the media also claims that Moi was so instrumental to the Orange win at the 2005 referendum. They fail to cite the government defeat at the Bomas conference despite Moi issuing an anti-bomas draft statement which was almost similar to his anti-Wako draft sentiments. His stand on the two could only be informed by his anti-reform credentials and love for the current authoritarian constitution. Also, you need to note that Moi has hit the ground running this time round to campaign for Mwai Kibaki, unlike the referendum where he was content with providing a mere statement of support. This explains one irrefutable fact: the stakes are higher this time than they were in 2005.

In my view, Moi's move is informed by class interest. Kenya's bourgeoisie have no time for the scion of Jaramogi, despite his being a man of means. He has flatly refused to join in their conspiracy to subjugate the poor, a moral stand just like his father's in the1960s. His altruism echoes the stands of other prominent global personalities from wealthy backgrounds who espoused pro-poor ideals like Fredrich Engels, Col. Gadaffi and Fidel Castro.

It follows then, that with an entrenched interest in the status quo, Moi will not sit back and watch a somewhat revolutionary brand of leader seize the reigns of power. I feel insulted when Moi dismisses ODM as a tribal grouping and a party without a vision or a manifesto. Don't forget it is only Kalenjins he is asking to remain in KANU and heed his “advice”. What classical double standards! Needless to say, he will not be appearing in a talk show and articulating his vision as Kenyans field their questions.

But what I even find laughable is the assertion that Uhuru Kenyatta has endorsed President Kibaki's re-election in a bid to preserve Kikuyu interests. As one of those Kikuyus, I must say count me out of this. Uhuru Kenyatta did not represent Kikuyu interests in 2002 and to this day, he does not. Moi tried to force him down the throats of Kenyans in 2002 so he could rule by proxy as a self-preservation trick.

If the media could accurately flash back to the events of 2005, it was William Ruto who literally drove KANU into the ant-Wako draft campaign, while Uhuru was giving mixed signals. The short time Uhuru defied Moi over the ODM party was out of realization that majority of his members, and especially his powerful Secretary General, was for ODM. But finally he has joined his benefactor in campaigning for Kibaki.

Were these two not also together in their insistence that KANU would go it alone in the polls? What has changed? If I was an adult in 1966 I would have voted with KPU and not KANU. Ordinary Kikuyus were duped into rejecting Bildad Kaggia while those they embraced so sheepishly were actually responsible for their squatter-status. In fact, KPU leaders had a vision to end landlessness, which was comparatively more rife in Central Province than elsewhere. For strange unfathomable reasons, land-grabbers got their way under the guise of catering for tribal interest. I for that reason dispute assertion that Uhuru will safeguard my interest as a Kikuyu.

The Kibaki/ Moi/ Uhuru (add Biwott) axis is difficult to beat in terms of resources, but it has its greatest weakness in the people's power at the ballot. Only one man in the current political set up has a strong ideological case against these forces of the status quo. This is none other than Raila Amolo Odinga. He has courage of conviction, passion, charisma, and valour. He has awesome networking skills and a strong character to turn tables on these forces of darkness. If he succeeds, Kenyans of all walks of life must prepare for a paradigm shift. But for the Moi/Kibaki/Uhuru axis, Raila Odinga must be stopped at the cost of billions of shillings.

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