Wednesday, July 9, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
July 9, 2008

I have seen not once but many time, young, desperate and lonely petty thieves, common pickpockets to be precise, die, lynched by an angry Nairobi street mob! Their only crime was to snatch a handbag, a mobile phone or a purse from an unsuspecting street tourist. At the shout of the word “Thief!” they have faced the anger and wrath of an equally desperate and disillusioned jobless mob. More often than not, they have died senseless deaths unless there was a policeman passing by. More often than not, these victims of mob justice are never given a fair trial. They meet their deaths on mere suspicion. Yet all we do is to feel temporary sorrow and a little guilt then move on with our lives.

Since the saga of one Amos Kimunya started rolling on our TV screens and newspapers, there have been more condemnations than support for poor Amos Kimunya. I was one of the earlier people who thought it was wrong for Kimunya to continue talking tough as if he had done no wrong, yet his utterances over the Grand Regency Hotel whose deal he described as “too sweet to turn down”, all pointed to the possibility that he was the main brain behind the sale.

A few brave men and women have over this period stood by Kimunya and even suggested that he had no business resigning because in their minds, the former Finance Minister had committed no sin. But the most telling of those pro Kimunya supporters were those that analyzed the findings of both the Public Accounts Committee and the Raila Cabinet sub- committee. They poked holes into each one of them and finally concluded that Kimunya was a victim of the lynch mob motivated by other motives such as his proposal to tax MPs’ allowances and of course the race for Kibaki succession in Central Province.

Whichever side one finds oneself on the Kimunya saga, one thing is apparent. Our leaders appointed to positions of authority should not think they are better than all Kenyans. If we assume airs once we are appointed to public offices, we dig our own graves. Once we are buried in the graves we dug ourselves, we should never look for scapegoats.

It is time Kenyan ministers, parliamentarians and constitutional office holders bore some respect for ordinary Kenyans. If they assume that they are the chosen few while the rest of Kenyans are fools that can go hang, one day Kenyans will bay for their blood as they did for Kimunya’s neck.

The mob that is accused of lynching Kimunya are his 219 fellow members of parliament, among them his ninety plus colleagues in the coalition cabinet. If this number of learned men and women in a divided house could come together against Kimunya, can Kimunya be right while the rest are wrong? Amos Kimunya is a member of the PNU side of the government and has served Kibaki well since David Mwiraria vacated that office under similar circumstances.

How come the strong support that Mwiraria and Kiraitu received from the Mt. Kenya MPs was lacking for Kimunya this time? Was it because Kimunya does not really come from Central Province proper? Or did they genuinely believe that he was as guilty as sin and beyond redemption? Why did Martha Karua ask him to carry his own cross? Why didn’t Uhuru Kenyatta, George Thuo, George Saitoti and Kiraitu Murungi defend him in Parliament? Why was his case left to Kalonzo Musyoka to struggle with and lose?

Fingers are being pointed at possible contenders in the Kibaki succession from Central Province who planned and executed the terrible deed. Now they are accusing Martha Karua for being part of the team if not the team leader of this group that plotted the Ides of March against Kimunya. What baffles me and hopefully many Kenyans is the obsession with the Kibaki succession in Central Province. Who says that the Kibaki successor will only come from Central Province and not from Muingi, Kwale, Suba or Amagoro?

Kimunya says he consulted widely with President Kibaki, his family, friends, relatives and lawyers before he begged the President to allow him to step aside! Fair enough; but did this consultation take place before the Kipiriri rally on Sunday, just 44 hours before he stepped aside the following Tuesday or after? At the time he was swearing to remain in office until he died, had he consulted the President and his family? Had they endorsed his death wish in exchange for his loss of office? Now that he has stepped aside, did the President, family and friends call his bluff and told him to go ahead and die if he wished but that he must vacate office?

Now that he has resigned without dying, is he still planning to die?

Kimunya, like a street pickpocket must suffer the pain of mere suspicion just like any common Kenyan found snatching a purse from a street walker. Like a common Kenyan, his guilt or innocence will be the subject of public debate after the fact, not before. This is because Kenyans loathe thieves of any kind. They loathe thieves because thieves are symbols of missed opportunities, missed school facilities, lack of drugs in hospitals, good roads, electricity and water in rural villages. When you are suspected to have stolen or benefited unfairly from public funds, chances of the public turning against you are very high.

For Amos Kimunya, his direct involvement in controversial sales of Telkom Kenya shares, Safaricom IPO, De La Rue money minting company and now Grand Regency, were reason enough to make the public suspicious. His replacement of Dr. Andrew Mulle with Prof Njuguna Ndung’u was seen as arrogantly tribalistic. He misused his powers as the Finance Minister at the slightest opportunity; and he did it arrogantly. What he did not know was that he was making more and more enemies as he went about stepping on everybody in his quest to conclude his deals.

His biggest blunder was a belated attempt to drag some of his cabinet ministers down with him. To have alleged that James Orengo demanded a mere Ks 3 million to silence him was as cheap as it could be. What he didn’t know was that by the time he was dragging the names of Amos Wako, James Orengo and Raila Odinga , Parliament had forced him to retract an earlier lie that the Grand Regency had not been sold. In other words, he was already a confirmed serial liar.

Now that he is not in the office, he had better watch his toungue lest he lands in more legal tussles as Parliaments launches a thorough investigation into all the privatizations deals that he has presided over since he became the Finance Minister.