November 12th, 2017,
The circus in Kenya never ends even when the resilient amongst us can smell the winds of hope from a distance. What is it with Kenya? Have we been cursed to always nip the good in us and amongst us to oblivion as we continue to dance on our own graves and wriggle, wiggle and roll in filth like pigs? For a whole week, I have contemplated on which issue to address in my rather not very inspiring quips. I have tossed the idea of lending voice to the many blunders we continue to commit to our pastoral communities. Where on earth do you shoot cows because you have issues with the people behind them? How do you solve a perennial problem and a volatile one for that matter by killing the only lifeline and livelihood the people know of; their cattle? When they are battered, abused, their small economy brutally raped and left to die in abjectness; won’t they vent out their anger using the guns they possess and their harsh terrain survival tactics? Won’t they out of hopelessness attack their equivalently dejected Pokot, Turkana and other neighbors as a desperate attempt not to continue the age-old practice of cattle rustling but simply an attempt to replenish their lost stock? Talk of adding oil to the fire. But this is Kenya for us. A Kenya where no one cares about the historical injustices especially against the marginalized societies. A Kenya where politics become the only thing that interests us at the expense of sound management of urban spaces to make them user-friendly; Nairobi has now become a grand chaos and a security risk for normal Kenyans trying to access their capital. Populism breeds captivity and disregard for the law.
Why can’t the ranching communities in Laikipia and the pastoral communities honestly have a truce where compassion and respect for property become the driving force for lasting peace? Kenya needs to be honest with its past. Only fools ignore history and at a very costly expense. The truth of the matter is that land constitutes one of the major problems facing Kenya. While some would potently argue that the post-election violence of 2007 was about a rigged election, the historians amongst us situate the events following that election to the historical injustices of real and perceived marginalization, dispossession, disenfranchisement and the purported targeting of certain ethnicities to leave them out of government. There was talk that NIS had already indicated to the government that whether ODM won or lost the election at that time, violence would have erupted anyway. Yet we got the golden opportunity to square things out and plant seeds of nationhood for posterity but botched it at the altar of the pursuit of power for the sake of power, wealth accumulation through patronage and corruption and ‘the axis of exclusion’ where-by an alliance of two arrogantly seeks to keep power for themselves. The rest can as well go jump into the lake, ocean or choke on food.
Anyway, I believe that is a story for another day. As I fumble with words to try to capture the imagination of a country so beloved yet so betrayed, my attention has been hijacked by a short clip doing rounds online christened “RAILA ODINGA IS A SICK MAN WHO NEEDS HELP!”. The clip starts with what it calls “The diagnosis of a madman”. It goes ahead to misrepresent so many historical facts and clearly demonstrates that the people behind it have a selfish agenda that goes hand in glove with what I call a regrettable narrative that sees Raila Amolo
Odinga as the problem in Kenya. The cabal group of Railaphobics is willing to go to any extent to misrepresent facts to retain power for their own sake. They open the floor by picking on the 1982 failed coup de’ tat. The goal is to paint Raila as a man with a very long and selfish ambition to capture power through hook or crook. But what this narrative as fallacious as it deliberately chooses to do perhaps as a result of selective amnesia is not to tell Kenyans that the attempted coup of 1982 was engineered by a very strong anti-Moi movement after those who had under-estimated him as a passing cloud realized that he had firmly placed his fingers on the reigns of power. Actually, it is this attempted coup that can be argued to have transformed Moi from the affable and amiable man who had taken over power in 1978 and released all the political detainees of the Kenyatta era into the post-1982 dictator of the one-party regime he became. Another truth deliberately pushed aside by the selfish choreographers of this empty narrative is that Charles Rugane Njonjo was the only political figure to whom the responsibility of the coup had been placed. Why is no-one picking on him? Moi detained Raila and many others including Koigi Wamwere. Why aren’t we representing these detentions as a struggle for justice however misplaced rather than cast it as Raila Odinga’s selfish quest for power?
The clip further addresses itself to the newly founded NRM and seeks to paint Raila as a dangerous man who sees himself as God. Yes, he enjoys a fanatical almost deity-like following and truly this must worry anybody who cares about nationhood in a good way not to ignore his constituency of six million plus rather than seek to paint him as a madman bordering on blasphemy and self-aggrandizement. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. NRM might be RAO’s brainchild but the philosophy or ideology behind its foundation anchors on questions of electoral justice, marginalization, exclusion and blatant arrogance and entitlement from those he personally characterizes as megalomaniacs and demagogues. Actually, the clip goes ahead to insinuate that as Raila purports to head this imaginary militia from the comfort of a boardroom chair he is oblivious to the fact that the world moves on without him. Which world if I may kindly ask? The risk of misrepresenting Raila as a political figure living in utopia and feigning blindness to the issues at hand by profiling them as either a “Luo problem” or ‘a lost course’ is that the loose strands that hold us together as a nation are very fast wearing off and sooner than later they stand to fracture. The landing will certainly be one with a big thud and all of us stand to lose. Some may massage their egos with the belief that when it burns it will only roast them as we watch but as I have repeatedly stated a fire never enjoys the luxury to choose what and who to consume or spare once it goes full blown. It burns everything in its wake and only ashes remain as a reminder of its devastating effects. Ashes that with time will be blown by the wind as we attain nothingness.
Mudavadi, Orengo and Norman Magaya, who for one reason or another has his name mispronounced by the narrator as “Mogaya”, are characterized as Raila’s caretakers. This line of thought is claimed to inform the fact that Raila is sick and needs protection from other people who are characterized as vultures and named unequivocally as Ali Hassan Joho, David Ndii, and Jimmy Wanjigi. Haa haa haa! That Raila is too weak to think independently hence he needs his speeches
written and his social life monitored. He needs his public appearance curated. It is interesting how this narrative and the thinkers behind it if at all they qualify as thinkers, attempts to draw a binary and put a wedge between the NASA fraternity.
Lastly, the clip claims that Raila’s mumbling, if at all he mumbles, his red eyes and signs of fatigue are themselves proof of him suffering from dementia. This sounds like child play. A man that does rounds across the globe and country and leaves an excited crowd in his wake; a man so powerful in addressing momentous crowds, a man articulate in answering media questions except for a few blurs in speech which could be out of a natural condition, a man who has publicly admitted to having a problem with his eyes due to the detention he suffered under Moi would be the last one to be accused of such an illness. Yes, he is old in age but the Raila of 2017 is still as fresh as he was in the late 1980s. A revolutionary and a fighter for certain courses that espouse the interest of the masses. The narrator ends by stating that Raila needs help. Yes, he needs help maybe in realizing this nation’s aborted dreams and not the kind of help insinuated by the people behind this 2.45 minutes clip.
What bothers me is not the cheap lies in the short video or the propaganda for it is sometimes expected in a political contest that some people will go that far to discredit their nemesis. What bothers me is the harm loaded in such a narrative for it ignores certain truths and no country can ever be built on a bunch of lies. Countries that have boldly faced their past have risen to reclaim their lost glory. Rwanda is one such country that though scoring low on democracy, it has succeeded at facing her past with honesty and not the ostrich and warthogian habits reminiscent of the Kenyan situation. Is it not true that the struggle for multipartyism knew no ethnicity as it was made up of people of all creed and background who envisioned a Kenya for all? Is it not true that Raila the demagogue we want to make him look like solely gave the country direction to elect Kibaki and put the last nail in KANU’s coffin? Is it not true that Raila Odinga has played a central role in midwifing the 2010 constitution and the devolution that breathes a new lifeline in the Kenya of today? I am not Raila’s handler or public curator if I may borrow from the referred herein to clip but as a historian, I can’t stomach the blatant misrepresentations of facts just to score a political goal. And to be spreading such material at a time when the country is on the brink of collapse is in itself suicidal and the perpetuation of the humongous egos and feelings of self-entitlement by certain people in the country. And the most dangerous fellow is the one who shares such idiotic materials on their timelines regaling in what they think is a revelation of the century.
Ina country where we are shooting cows belonging to powerless but armed herders rather than diplomatically engaging stakeholders for a lasting solution that builds trust and promotes patriotism; in a country where other cattle herders have their animals confiscated by a neighboring country and auctioned cheaply not forgetting the chick exports confiscated and burnt; in a country where Migingo has become a sore on our face even after spending millions to re- investigate the boundaries and with several poor fisherman arrested, tortured and mistreated by police officers from another neighboring country; in a country
where we cannot admit our credit indexes are alarming; in a country whose police force has been rated as amongst the worst in securing and safeguarding human rights; we can do with less hate-mongering and promote nationhood through open dialogue meant to heal and cement the country as one. Otherwise, the Cataluña and Yugoslavia are highly probable.
Jethron Ayumbah —PhD Technische Universitat Darmstadt.