Saturday, August 2, 2008



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

In the run up to the last elections, I wrote about the pain of having a Luo president in Kenya. At that time I was inspired by the “unelectable” tag the then ODM K members were trying to put on Raila. Back then, we still had seven aspirants vying for the ODM K presidential ticket before Kalonzo Musyoka and Julia Ojiambo bolted out.

The talk at that time was that a group of Raila Odinga colleagues, inspired by ODMK Council of Elders, had decided to zero in on Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi or William Ruto as the more electable candidate to face Mwai Kibaki at the polls. The theory among Raila rivals was that being a Luo, he was as unelectable as any Luo can be to the highest political office in Kenya.

I talked about the suffering and bitterness the Luo community had undergone for four decades since independence. The community’s tribulations were captured through Jim Hayo, a fictitious character that had personified this collective discrimination. In Ohayo, the Luo had accepted their condition and no longer bothered with it. They had resolved to live positively with their condition.

This year, the community has produced a prime minister rather than a president. It is the highest rank any Luo has held in Kenya since Raila’s father resigned from Kenyatta’s government in 1966.

With Raila Odinga, came new politics. His campaign targeted tribalism, nepotism and general discrimination against any Kenyan on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or region. He preached a future when Kenyans would be judged on the content of their character and ability rather than tribe or region one came from.

If Raila Odinga criticized Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki governments in the 2007 elections, it was because he felt compelled to change Kenya’s politics for good. Under his leadership he would create a new Kenya where he, unlike his predecessors, would not surround himself with clansmen and tribesmen.

Although Raila Odinga did not get to be president in January 2008, he became the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya and a principal shareholder in the Kibaki government. He negotiated a peaceful end to the bloody riots that turned Kenya upside down. He accepted partial leadership even though there is enough evidence that he won the presidency outright.

Now that he is the Prime Minister in charge of coordination and supervision of all government ministries and departments, his role as Raila Odinga the Prime Minister has drastically changed. He is no longer merely the leader of ODM. He is the Prime Minister of Kenya that must serve all Kenyans and all regions of the Republic without discrimination. He is the Prime Minister of those regions and tribes that never voted for him as well. This was the reason the three manifestos of PNU, ODM and ODMK were harmonized.

Because Raila Odinga is in power and position of influence, and knowing his election pledge to detribalize Kenya, it will equally be more difficult for a Luo to get favour with Raila in this government. This is not because he hates Luos who might have expected more from him but because he is driven by the desire to be different from the leaderships he has campaigned against before.

It is therefore not surprising to find that of the current five members of staff in his office, there is only one Luo, two Kikuyus and two Somalis. If the President, Vice President and other cabinet ministers could emulate Raila Odinga, more Luos would find their way in to the government.

However, if it is business as usual the way we see the Treasury, KRA and other government departments dominated by single tribes, then the condition of a Luoman will remain unchanged for a long, long time.

Finally for whining Luos and Kipsigis who thought they would have got plum government jobs; please read from recent history of this country. Remember that the Kikuyu Mau Maus who fought and died for their land never got it. Instead, home-guards benefited immensely. Raila’s own father fought for Uhuru and put his life on the line for Jomo Kenyatta, however, the same Jomo Kenyatta threw him in jail just six years after Uhuru.

When you fight for a cause, do not expect to benefit directly. Fight for generations to come. That is the legacy Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. bequeathed to mankind.