Thursday, February 21, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
ARUSHA, Tanzania

I have a special stake in Uncle Moody Awori’s present political quagmire. I do so because I am partly responsible for his being where he is to day by default. I never knew it would come to this when it all started innocently one afternoon in October 2002.

At that time, I was one of those ardent believers in the Rainbow Alliance that was hell bent on getting Kanu out of power. Like the rest of my colleagues that streamed to Kasarani Basketball Stadium to witness the merger between Kanu and my former party LDP, I was a furious man. I was livid because President Moi had misled us into burying our party then dumped us by the roadside a few weeks later. Like all my colleagues, I was determined to contribute to his final humiliation.

As the Uhuru Project gained currency with Moi becoming bolder by the day in asserting that Uhuru Kenyatta would be the sole Kanu flag bearer without the benefit of competitive nomination against other aspirants, we started plotting for a fall back strategy. Luckily for us, there were many Kanu big wigs that had for too long suffered Moi’s endless humiliations and all they were waiting for was a fearless messiah to lead them into a rebellion and they would all troop out of Kanu to give Moi his first internal party revolt.

In this group were George Saitoti, Moi’s former vice president for fourteen years, Musalia Mudavadi, Noah Katana Ngala, Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ole Nti Mama, Moody Awori, Fred Gumo and Joseph Kamotho

Saitoti and Kamotho had just been humiliated at the merger delegate’s conference when both of them lost their former positions as party Vice Chairman and Secretary General of the new Kanu on the floor while all along they had been made to believe that they had a fighting chance to defend their positions. In the process, Kanu elected four Vice Chairmen and one Secretary General in the persons of Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka, Katana Ngala and Musalia Mudavadi while Raila Odinga became the new Kanu Secretary General.

At that Kasarani meeting, George Saitoti experienced his worst nightmare when he realized on the floor, sitting next to President Moi that his name had been deleted from among the list of vice chairmen positions. It is rumoured that the shock became too much to bear because just an hour earlier he had had breakfast with Dan the Professor of politics where they went through the line-up with his name intact. Little did he know that the list the professor was discussing with him was a fake one. When he rose to consult Dan why his name was not in the list, all Moi could say was, “ kama haiko basi haiko!” If it is not there then it isn’t there!

Thereafter, Saitoti made his now famous speech of “there comes a time in the life of an individual when the interests of the nation must be greater than the interests of an individual”. With those wise words, he formally withdrew from the race and was quickly followed by his bosom friend JJ Kamotho.

The love affair between Moi and his new friends didn’t last long. In a matter of weeks, the union was in tatters, thanks to Uhuru Kenyatta who was hell-bent on jumping the queue despite the fact that he had never won an election in his life. The rest of the vice chairmen together with Raila Odinga who had variously been promised the Moi succession saw mischief and betrayal. Raila decided that something had to be done. On that score former bitter rivals found a common enemy that they all needed to deal with.

The meeting between Raila, Kamotho and Saitoti at the Norfolk Hotel one lunch time was as earth shaking as it was unbelievable. It was the one meeting that sealed Moi’s fate and finally tore the myth of Moi’s invincibility as the professor of Kenyan politics.

Sooner, rather than later, Katana Ngala, Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi joined the anti Moi crusade. However, for Musalia Mudavadi, it was more of Moody Awori’s urging to go for the presidency because Awori felt it was time the Luhyas produced Kenya’s third president and having supported Moi all those years it was only fair that Moi reciprocated. Moi refused to be moved by Awori’s sentiments.

Knowing Moi’s antics of playing the carrot and stick game, he sacked Saitoti overnight and dangled the VP slot in front of Musalia Mudavadi. Mudavadi swallowed the bait and became the first Luhya Vice President and Uhuru Kenyatta’s running mate.
Soon after, Katana Ngala also chickened out and returned to Kanu.

This about turn shook Awori to the bone. He was devastated. Gumo threatened to lynch Mudavadi. For three days the Luhyas were shaken. They even contemplated going back to Kanu now that they had no presidential candidate. Gumo and Awori were not even thinking of supporting Raila Odinga for the presidency. It was either one of their own or nothing.

Within the first day of Mudavadi’s defection, I and professors Humphrey Ojwang, Irene Othieno and another Luhya professor I cannot remember decided to call on Gumo first them Moody Awori to convince them to stay on cause. Gumo showed no interest in replacing Mudavadi although we liked him because of his combative nature. He was also a good rubble-rouser- just the type that the politics of the time needed. Having failed to convince Gumo, we headed straight for Awori’s office in Jogoo House where he was an assistant minister. Awori warmly welcomed us and was pretty relaxed. We found he had packed all his belongings and was sitting on a clean table receiving numerous calls. He was expecting to be sacked any time since joining the Raila bandwagon.

We didn’t waste time. We told him that we were sad that Mudavadi had chickened out but at the same time we could not do without Luhyas in the struggle. We needed their numbers. He was visibly flattered but wondered aloud who would replace Mudavadi.

After awhile I looked into his eyes and told him that since he was the kingmaker who had failed to convince the prince to be king, he should consider seriously being king now that the throne was vacant. He laughed and quickly told us that he was too old for politics and that he was in fact considering not even defending his Funyula seat!

We refused to take no for an answer and asked him to go and think about it. Two days later, Awori had firmly settled in Mudavadi’s place with strong support from Fred Gumo. The Luhyas were back with Awori as their torch bearer!

Three years later, the Awori we persuaded to be king actually became deputy king with a big scandal hanging over his head.

A few weeks ago, Awori called a press conference in his office to refute allegations of grand corruption involving some faceless racketeers going by the name Anglo Leasing Ltd. In that well attended conference Awori refused to resign asking two rhetorical questions: Who is my accuser? What crime have I committed?

Six weeks later, Uncle Moody has received answers to his questions. His accuser is now the National Assembly that has probed his involvement and recommended his being charged in court. The same Public Accounts Committee has accused him of lying to the nation, misleading the House on Anglo Leasing Group and trying to cover up economic crime apart from being negligent and incompetent at the same time.

Now Awori can step aside like David Mwiraria and Kiraitu Murungi to await the due process of the law if he still cares for his dignity, integrity and conscience.

In a way I feel guilty because somehow I and my colleagues put him into this mess. Had we not pressurised him to join the Rainbow Alliance, Uncle Moody would probably still be a clean man enjoying his twilight years in blissful retirement.

ARUSHA, Tanzania