Monday, August 25, 2008

Githongo's return passed like a ship in the night

It was good that John Githongo returned to Kenya after three years of self-imposed exile.

It is also good to note that he has become a point of convergence between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, the two individuals that represent opposing interests in the coalition government.

Another thing; when Githongo bolted to London fearing for his life nearly four years ago, the two individuals that have now invited him to come home, were not touched by the Anglo Leasing scandals that brought into disrepute two of Kibaki's trusted confidantes.

In the years of his stay in Britain, Githongo unleashed almost the entire details of what happened and by whom; including contents of his secret tapes that were aired generously worldwide. If he decides to reveal more on the same government officials or even President Mwai Kibaki, he will not be saying anything new. If anything, he will be talking to an already bored audience. Like the Goldenberg scandal before it, the Anglo Leasing scam is no longer news unless Kibaki decides to spill blood!

Unlike John Githongo, Ngugi Wathiong'o spent 20 years in self-imposed exile in the West. In addition, Wathiong'o swore never to set foot on Kenyan soil until President Moi left office. True to character, he promptly returned home soon after Kibaki took power in 2003. Unfortunately, for the son of Kamirithu village, a lot of water had passed under the bridge in the 20 years he was away. His visit was overshadowed by an attack by thugs believed to have been organised by his close relatives. Despite his celebrity status abroad, by the time he returned home, the authorities were no longer interested in him.

Like Wathiong'o, John Githongo is likely to find a drastically-changed political scenario. He is likely to find a hostile Mt. Kenya group who will probably see him as a traitor who tried to stop them from "eating". They will probably view him as a sellout that almost derailed the second presidency of the Agikuyu when they had just started recovering from years of the Moi regime that destroyed their business empires.

On the flipside, he will find a government without official opposition. Instead, the agents of change such as Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka who supported him in exile as he battled the Kibaki regime will have been firmly settled in a coalition government with the very people he had pointed fingers at. A pointer to what Githongo will find on return can be gleaned from a recent speech Raila Odinga made in London as recently as last month. Before an international audience, he showered praise on President Kibaki as a good leader that could not be compared to Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. In the same breath, Raila affirmed that he would make sure the coalition worked and delivered on its promises to Kenyans.

Now, Raila Odinga is busy introducing major changes in various government departments; chief among them is the constitutional reform that must be delivered in a year's time. For this to happen, he will need Martha Karua's support and that of the entire team of the Mt. Kenya MPs. It is these new developments that will make it impossible for Githongo's return to have any meaningful impact. However, knowing Kenya, it is possible that there will be more excitement among the civil society in celebrating Githongo's return. After all, Githongo was one of them even as he joined Kibaki's government in early 2003, a factor that dogged his tenure as a civil servant in unfamiliar territory. In a way, Githongo's failure to perform was partly his failure to conform to the new intrigues of a bureaucracy. This was the reason he failed to heed cautions from colleagues more knowledgeable in the ways of the world. The irony of Githongo's tragedy is that as he was gliding downhill in Kibaki's first administration, his former comrades weathered the storms and got even stronger with the very regime he castigated!

Will he be able to pick up the pieces again? Will this administration find use for him? Will Kibaki forgive him for secretly taping his administration for foreign audiences? Will Kibaki ever trust such a man again? If he did it to Kibaki, Murungi and Ringera, what would stop him from doing the same to Raila, Kalonzo or Martha Karua should another chance present itself to him?

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