Sunday, December 21, 2008



Published on 19/12/2008
By Kenneth Kwama

It is difficult to disrespect Prime Minister Raila Odinga, even if you do not share his political inclinations or adore the political company he keeps.

Being among the key people who fought to steer the country away from one-party rule, everyone, including the media whose freedom Parliament wants to stifle, owe him a debt of gratitude.

Early this week, the PM bought himself moral credit in Parliament when he stood with the media against a lynch mob of MPs who were inciting the President to sign the contentious Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008 into law. Because of this, one could argue that Raila still represents a unique element of political exceptionalism.

His voice is still strong and he still possesses streaks of what made him a darling of the people.

Unfortunately, Raila’s flirtation with the Grand Coalition Government makes him lack credibility to be a human rights spokesman.

When brutality against human rights activists and the media can be countenanced by the Government he serves, it is time for deep introspection for the PM.

The question we need to ask him and those MPs condemning the Media Bill is: Where were they when Parliament was passing the proposed law?

The more Raila hangs out with the ‘bad guys’, the more he begins to look like them. The system that he serves is out of touch with reality. On Thursday, his party — the Orange Democratic Movement — conducted a sham election whose outcome is only comparable to the upshots of the infamous mlolongo system.

Raila of 1990s

Our political system stinks partly because we have allowed leaders to act as monopoly suppliers of politicians. Currently, there is little pressure on them to supply quality.

When folks who have taken years to build their careers on the platform of ‘reforms’ — like Lands Minister James Orengo, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi and Justice Minister Martha Karua — fail to halt the march of negative forces, disappointment sets in.

A good politician should be a servant of the people, not a head, master or lord.

That is why I miss Raila of the early 1990s who personified these ideals. He was focussed, clear-headed and made his own decisions. Perhaps it also helped that he was apolitical, which loosely translates into not having a constituency — like the squatters in Mau Forest — to please.

However, things have changed and Raila is now the PM whose duties include cleaning up the mess left by the bad boys. I believe he is being a little generous when he says the Coalition Government will deliver what his party promised last year.

Not only is this ‘fix the country’ metaphor inaccurate, it also reflects the extent to which our politicians believe they can control and manage outcomes.

While the fear of a divided Cabinet should be least of Raila’s worries, the spectre of the Government collapsing due to these differences is enough to prevent him from rocking the boat.