Tuesday, December 16, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Atlanta, Georgia
December 15, 2008

In less than a week, the Presidents of Kenya and the United States have gone through experiences of their lifetimes. These Incidents will form an integral part of their legacies, unfortunate as they might have been.

By coincidence; both presidents are serving their last terms in office with Bush remaining with just thirty five days in office. Mwai Kibaki has however, more than 1000 days in office before he retires.

Both presidents are suffering acute loss of executive power making them incapable of effecting meaningful executive decisions. As Bush watches in bewilderment the Senate’s scuttling of his bailout plan for the American auto industry, Kibaki is equally stressed out with our local MPs that are bent on chipping away his powers to appoint new ECK Commissioners let alone voting for his bills despite personal pleas to them.

While George Bush is content with the blame that his eight years of poor performance at the White cost his party the presidency; Kibaki’s other ministers are defying his orders to stop campaigning for his succession. Surely for Bush and Kibaki, the presidency has become a nightmare of sorts during their last terms in office.
But the most telling similarity must be credited to the incidents that happened in Nairobi on Jamhuri Day last week and in Baghdad this week just three days apart.
For Kibaki, this was the first time a heckler cut short a President’s speech on the most important national day in Kenya’s annual calendar. No sitting President in Kenya’s history has ever left a National Day celebration in a huff because of some heckler. Kibaki did just that.

Kibaki’s case was even more intriguing because the heckler was sitting right behind him as a dignitary; something the President’s security detail should have detected much earlier; they didn’t.

George’s Bush’s sudden trip to Baghdad to bid farewell to his troops and the government of Iraq ended on a sour note when an irate Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at the American president which Bush ducked twice. On both occasions there were no marines to shield their president.

This incident, like that of Kibaki 4000 miles away took place in full view of the international press. Again, like Kibaki, Bush will go in history as the first American President to have been embarrassed by a shoe throwing journalist who also called him a dog!

As Kenyan security men bundled one Peter Odhiambo the heckler out of Nyayo Stadium with his mouth closed probably to stop him from pouring out more profanity against the state; their Baghdad counterparts did not seem to have descended on the Iraqi journalist with equal force. May be the cameras did not provide us with more footage on the attacker’s exit.

However, what I shuddered to think was that if what happened to Bush in Baghdad had happened to him in Kampala, Dar es Salaam or Nigeria; would the culprit and others standing by have survived?

I remember when Clinton visited Abuja and Arusha before he left office. I also remember when Bush visited Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda a few years ago. The advance American military and state security agents were overwhelming. It is rumored that even some heads of state were not allowed to move from their seats during such ceremonies.

I can bet that the Baghdad incident would have resulted in the deaths of so many journalists at the hands of the local government with others going to jail or losing their jobs. The embarrassment to the regime in power would have awoken the demon in all of us!

As we replay the footages of these incidents day after day, I keep thinking why good leaders like Mugabe can rule for so long and invoke our hatred for them so much. If Bush had lost his bid for a second term; he would not have come across such lowly attack from a mere journalist. If Mugabe had called it quits when he was still popular, he would today not be regarded as an old fool who doesn’t know when it is time to quit.

If Mwai Kibaki had honored the 2002 memorandum of understanding with his ex colleagues in Narc and went home after five years like Nelson Mandela, he would today be a respected African Statesman basking in the glory of Mandela’s company. He would also have saved Kenya from the 2007 Election fiasco because there would have been a more sensible Electoral Commission in the first place.