Saturday, August 2, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
July 28, 2008

When did the Prime Minister’s office become an employment bureau? I sometimes wonder what all this noise is all about! All those ODM campaigners who supported the party and are now shedding tears over non-existent jobs; are they really serious? I thought they were volunteers and generous donors! I didn’t know they were job seekers.

As an individual, I attended a few fundraising dinners in Nairobi to collect campaign cash for the ODM and its presidential candidate. My desire was to fellowship with people I had not seen for a long time and contribute the little I had and leave.

Something else; ODM functions were always packed to capacity. It did not matter that they were held in what venue. Thousands of fans always turned up at their own expense to listen to the voices of change. Compensating each one of them would be impractical.

The few occasions I ventured into Orange House or The Pentagon, they resembled a marketplace. People were always milling around and I wondered what they would be doing there for days on end waiting to have a glimpse at The Pentagon big six; if they showed up that is.

I may be wrong on this one but to the best of my knowledge, ODM received substantial amounts of contribution and fees from members and well wishers. Rough estimates have put the figures at slightly over a billion Kenya shillings that was spent on various activities including salaries for the staff, think tanks and strategists. If they were paid for their services, why would they cry for jobs now?

Just weeks before the general elections, I wrote an article in the local press warning ODM supporters to lower their expectations even if Raila Odinga won the presidency outright. My warning was informed by the massive following the ODM had cultivated countrywide. It was compounded by the fact that if Raila Odinga became President, he would try to be different. Every tribe in Kenya would find a place in his government.

This meant that the Luo supporters would be the losers if Raila had to make a difference in the department of tribalism. A few days later, I got a rude shock when one of the ODM staffers called me to warn me against suggesting who should or should not be in Odinga’s government.

The sheer number of consultants, strategists and think tanks was mind boggling even though one could obviously see latter day opportunists joining the bandwagon in the hope that he would win the elections.

Then there were those who talked loudest on local television networks. I thought they were there to educate Kenyans on democratic and electoral process. I didn’t know they were gunmen for hire! And to the best of my knowledge they craved for those interviews!

However, now that the chickens have come home to roost, can’t these opportunists accept the fact that Raila Odinga is not the President and that he shares power with President Kibaki? Can’t they see that the big government Raila talked about was halved when he signed an Accord with Kibaki on February 28, 2008? Do they want Raila to fire all ambassadors, parastatal chiefs and Permanent secretaries then hire them instead? What good would that do for the country? What about running contracts that these public servants have signed with the Public Service Commission?

The Prime Minister has hardly been in office for four months; a new office that was disbanded 44 years ago! Rebuilding that office within the structure of the present system will take time, patience and lots of negotiations with the PNU partner, the Public Service and any other authority responsible for the hiring of public servants. It cannot just happen because a few people who campaigned for Raila Odinga are impatient enough not to wait!

Right now the Prime Minister’s office is undergoing disquiet because of the wrong strategists that ODM had in the first place. A number of them were political rejects. Some had not even run a primary school project in their villages. All they did was to be cheer leaders at the political events. Others are out-rightly unemployable for one reason or the other. For all these reasons, they didn’t have the capacity to put structures in place either before the elections or during the coalition dialogue. They were thinking of themselves first. Now the chickens have come home to roost