Friday, August 8, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
August 7, 2008

Jomo Kenyatta, the founding president of Kenya rose from humble origins through sheer determination to become the first prime minister and then president of modern Kenya. His humble origin cannot be denied even though upon assuming office, he got drunk with power and finally died an intolerant dictator who amassed wealth for his family unashamedly. The mistakes he made as president especially in the area of land grabbing has come to haunt his family to date.

Daniel arap Moi was an orphan from a peasant background who was brought up by distant relatives. The mere fact that as a child he could trek 20 miles every day to go to school is proof that this was no royal prince. The same poverty curtailed his further education at Alliance High School when he realized he could not afford fees to join Form One there. This makes Gideon Moi the son of a successful peasant.

At the time Kenyatta died in office, Moi was the most unlikely contender for the throne, having been ridiculed over and over again by Kenyatta’s men. He had many things going against him making his ascension to the presidency a miracle of sorts. He was from a minority tribe, one of the least educated in the Kenyatta cabinet and finally the least charismatic politician Kenya had ever produced. Despite having been Kenyatta’s student for close to 15 years, he never mastered the art of public speaking like his mentor. Had it not been for Charles Njonjo who fought Moi’s wars openly for two years in Kenyatta’s last days, chances are that Moi would never have been Kenya’s second President.

Mwai Kibaki became Kenya’s third president by accident. Like Kenyatta and Moi before him, he too was never princely. The barefoot school going son of Othaya struggled like every village boy to make a difference in his life. Through sheer determination, he made it to Makerere and Oxford, not because he came from a privileged family.

By the time Kibaki became president, he had almost lost hope, having failed to dislodge the less educated Moi twice. Had Raila Odinga not led a rebellion against Moi, had Moi not made political blunder by anointing Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor, Kibaki would not have seen the inside of State House.

Take the case of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Available literature, including his own Not Yet Uhuru, is testimony that this son of a peasant struggled just like any village child does today in rural Kenya. And even when he attained goals beyond his dreams by becoming Kenya’s first Vice President, his ideals made him ostracized by the new power brokers of the time. He never enjoyed the fruits of Uhuru like the people he struggled to free from bondage. And for twenty six years, Jaramogi remained in political limbo alternating between house arrests and detentions by Kenyatta and Moi. Could this be the man to equate with Pharaoh of Egypt?

To tell us today that if Joseph Nyagah, Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Gideon Moi and Uhuru Kenyatta are succeeding in politics, it is because of their kingly fathers; it is a gross misrepresentation of facts and slanted analysis.

Raila Odinga, Joseph Nyagah and Musalia Mudavadi were never any President’s sons. They were ordinary children of cabinet ministers that served Kenyatta and Moi. It is their determination that has set them apart from their own siblings and peers from other cabinet families. This is the reason we don’t hear of political successes from families of Jackson Angaine, Achieng’ Oneko, Paul Ngei, Taita Towett, Mbiu Koinange, Njoroge Mungai, Tom Mboya and many other prominent politicians of those eras.

Politics is about personal determination, conviction and the courage to move forward against all odds. If Barack Obama is now considered a latter day JF Kennedy, it is because of personal determination. The Reagan, Kennedy and Nixon family members cannot use their background to beat Obama. For the same reason, Bill Clinton, a fatherless child beat a sitting an American sitting president in 1992.
If Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto and Martha Karua are rebelling against the throne, it is because that is the right thing to do to succeed in politics; not because they are super heroes.

Real heroes fought against Moi in Kenya’s darkest period between 1982 and 1992. Real heroes were hanged, murdered and maimed in Kenya’s torture chambers for the 24 years Moi was our President.