Saturday, June 27, 2009

And now, a note for Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka

I have taken the time to write this open letter to you, Vice-President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, because of your increasingly important role in Kenya’s future. Unlike some pundits, I do not consider you a political lightweight.

Quite on the contrary, you have impressed me with your cunning and strategic thinking since you entered national politics in 1985. As a native of Tseikuru, a remote part of Mwingi District, your climb to the pinnacle of power in Kenya is a testament to your grit and stubborn determination. That’s why your political opponents ought to be afraid – very afraid – of you. They underestimate you at their own peril.

Sir, I know that you were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth. You are a self-made man. Since your early life at Tseikuru Full Primary School, you have had a knack for attracting godfathers and endearing yourself to the wealthy and powerful. Some may have thought you a teacher’s pet, but you cultivated respect for authority and elders. These attributes are socialised in those who seek power in African post-colonial states. In a stroke of political genius, you endeared yourself to the late Mulu Mutisya, the New Akamba Union leader who was regarded as the kingpin of Ukambani.

This coup was the greatest break that launched your star political career. Do you think President Mwai Kibaki has really agreed to be your godfather? The choice of Mr Mutisya as your godfather showed more commitment to the tribe than the nation. What did it say about your views on corruption, patronage and democracy? Mr Mutisya, who was illiterate, was able to command Ukambani politics because of his closeness to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, and later, President Daniel arap Moi. It is said that the crafty Mutisya refused Mzee Kenyatta’s entreaties to bring the Akamba into GEMA, although the “A” in the acronym was supposedly reserved for them.

You literally sat in the kingmaker’s seat, but mistakenly thought you could be the king.

In Kenya’s tribalised politics, Mr Mutisya thought he would have more leverage if he controlled the Akamba as a separate bloc. It is no secret, sir, that you would like to inherit Mr Mustisya’s mantle. Sir, I think you would agree with me that Kenyans should know your history since you may one day end up in State House.

Until 2002, your role in Kenyan politics could only have been described as disappointing. I will take some of that back. You did play a positive role as Mr Moi’s minister for Foreign Affairs in war-torn Sudan and Somalia. But your role in domestic politics was downright corrosive.

A Kanu hawk, you advocated the repression of human rights and pro-democracy advocates. You were a shameless apologist and rabid defender of the one-party state. You vigorously opposed a democratic constitution, and fought to keep civil society from providing civic education in the constitutional review process. It is true you changed your tune in 2002 when you broke with Kanu to join Mr Raila Odinga in the Rainbow Alliance. But I was not convinced that you decamped from Kanu out of principle. You were piqued that Mr Moi – your political mentor and benefactor – had chosen Mr Uhuru Kenyatta over you as his heir apparent.

However, I was impressed by the way you publicly defied Mr Moi. But you did so to save your political skin. The writing was on the wall that Kanu was the Titanic, and you did not want to go down with it. So you decided to reinvent yourself as a reformer by joining your ardent foes in the political opposition. You knew there was no future in Kanu and, therefore, you acted like an opportunist. I have never known you, sir, to miss opportunities with your future at stake. Your fight with Mr Odinga for the control of ODM proved to Kenyans that you have a large ego and unbounded ambition. Either you were going to be ODM’s presidential nominee, or you would splinter ODM. That’s why you took ODM-K. But you knew you had no real chance at winning because Mr Odinga had outsmarted you and taken virtually the entire opposition leaving you with an empty shell. To your credit, you soldiered on, and put up a gallant fight.

Once again, I was impressed by your resilience and determination. It was your democratic right to go all the way, as you often put it during the campaign. But your campaign may have been detrimental to the country in the long term because ODM-K is largely an ethnic party. It has contributed to the further ethnic polarisation of Kenyan politics.

I also think, sir, that you could have reduced the probability of post-election violence if you had joined either PNU or ODM before the election. The 10-12 per cent of the vote that you controlled would have been large enough to decisively swing the election either to Mr Odinga or Mr Kibaki. You literally sat in the kingmaker’s seat, but mistakenly thought you could be the king. This was either a terrible miscalculation on your part, or the work of hubris and ego. You could have struck a deal for the vice-presidency with either of them before the election instead of taking the tainted office in a disputed vote.

I have never been to Mwingi but I have heard people say that you have done very little for the district. But I want to end on a lighter note. You have the gift of the gab, and can give a pretty good speech. I must confess that your oratorical skills are well honed. You can wear a suit, and I have heard some women speak of your good looks. May I suggest that you match good form with noble substance?

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