Wednesday, August 5, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
August 5, 2009

Now I know why Hillary Clinton lost the elections to Barack Obama. She is such a conformist, such a systems good guy that no reforms can ever come under her stewardship.

I looked at the American Secretary of State deliver her keynote speech at the AGOA Forum and I was disappointed. But her performance became worse when she and, thank God, Moses Wetangula, came out to face the press. Intriguingly, Raila Odinga who was supposed to appear with her declined the offer and instead it fell on Kenya’s Foreign Minister to accompany her to the press that had impatiently waited outside.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on the former First Lady of the United States. It obviously was going to be a challenge fitting in the shoes of fire breathing and overwhelming former holders of that office such as Henry Kissinger of yester years, Collin Powell and lately Condoleezza Rice.

In terms of Kenyan politics, straight talkers such as Rice especially during the 2007/2008 post election violence made us to expect more from Lady Clinton especially after her current boss lambasted Kenya’s wayward politics for close to one week last month when Obama was in Ghana.

Closer home, Michael Ranneberger’s deafening warnings to the coalition government to style up or else…., coupled with Johnnie Carson’s’ once querying Raila Odinga’s reform credentials must have raised the hopes of latter day reformists that on landing in Nairobi, the good lady of Arkansas city would be breathing fire hot from Obama’s kitchen. It was not to be.

To tell you the truth; the closed door meeting between Kibaki and his cabinet before asking Wetangula to escort her to the press conference did the trick. In that meeting, it seems the cabinet managed to convince Clinton that a local solution to Kenya’s post election violence was the best option even if it meant empowering the TJRC Commission to undertake the task. And she was not even bothered that Kenya had failed to speed up the process of dealing with suspects as recommended by Justice Waki.It did not matter to her that Parliament had rejected past attempts to set up a local tribunal.

However, what was intriguing and more shocking was that here she was in a country that was so polarized politically yet she seemed not to have been briefed about the many simmering undercurrents in Rift Valley, Parliament and within political parties.
Had she been adequately briefed, she would have realized that Parliament and ordinary people had long lost faith in the judicial and investigative systems.

Had she been briefed properly, someone would have told her that IDPs were still languishing in camps in Rift Valley and that the families of 1500 people massacred by militias and government security agents were still crying loud for justice; which hope of ever getting justice was receding with each passing day.

Had she been briefed adequately, she would have realized that Kenya’s Attorney General has never tried and convicted high profile corruption cases since 1992 despite commissions of inquiry and other task forces producing credible evidence. She would have known that the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission has been rendered toothless by the Attorney General’s immense powers known more for terminating cases than prosecuting them.

Without batting an eye, the former First Lady confessed that if the coalition government cannot convince Parliament to amend the necessary laws to create a local tribunal, then it was fair for Kibaki and Raila to resort to other avenues open to them, including turning to the incorrigibly inept and corrupt judiciary to try suspects of the post election violence, pointing out that even the Obama administration was equally being frustrated by the American Congress despite the President’s party commanding a majority in Congress.

The reason why pro-reform activities had banked so much on Clinton was because of the sad suggestion that the coalition cabinet was contemplating expanding the mandate of the discredited Kiplagat’s TJRC to deal with suspects of the post election violence. However, since she has openly endorsed the cabinet thinking, one wonders how that will sit with Ranneberger’s hard line position on the subject. Did she unknowingly slap Ranneberger on the face?

Yet, as she seemed to be endorsing Kibaki’s position on a local division court or a JRC, trouble was brewing out side for the TJRC as a group of activists headed to the courts to stop it from operating on the grounds that the chairman and one of the commissioners were unfit to sit on that body because they too were suspects of Moi’s oppressive regime of a quarter century.

If Hillary Oldham Clinton came to Kenya on a public relations mission with the Kenya government, she succeeded big time. However, if her trip was to reinforce the Ranneberger- Carson hard line stand on Kenya’s reform agenda, she failed miserably.