Thursday, November 19, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
November 19, 2009

On Thursday last week, the entire government converged at the Coast to bond. Our government spent an estimated Ks 10 million ostensibly to bond son that wrangles among cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries and other arms of the government would be a thing of the past. This government needed to bond in order to bring back harmony and civilized practice in our system.

There was a good case for this bonding retreat especially when the government realized that experimenting with a coalition government in this part of the world, coupled with expanded democratic space and free speech can pose serious management problems for any government.

They needed to bond so that the PNU and ODM sides of government could begin to feel like members of one family in order to get on with the job for which the coalition government was set up- to provide services to the people of Kenya.

Even though Ks 10 million plus was burnt at the Coast in just two days, we felt that it was worth it as long as after the retreat, we would see harmony and cohesion in the government.

However, what did we see just a day after the Mombasa retreat? Some cabinet ministers flew direct to Rift Valley to find a readymade audience of ex- Mau Forest dwellers who, three days earlier than schedule, had decided to move out of the forest and camp by the roadside! Remember, these so called squatters had not been forcibly evicted but decided to leave their forest homes without knowing where the y would go!

I will not for a moment condone the suffering of fellow Kenyans irrespective of tribe, race or region. I still believe that it is the government’s responsibility to care for its citizens. However, what I find in bad taste is to be treated to a crisis that looks every side stage managed to boost the political egos of some disenchanted members of the Kalenjin community.

Incidentally, did I hear that investigative journalists have discovered that the same MPs actually encouraged these innocent Kenyans to camp by the roadside during the day for political gimmicks and move back to their forest homes at night in order to gain sympathy with their communities and international donors? If so, it must be the most callous thing any leader can ever do to his people.

On that roadside rally, conveniently convened to vent their anger on their punch bag Raila Odinga, I saw several Waheshimiwa shedding crocodile tears in sympathy with the so called landless evictees. And as Gideon Moi eloquently put it, why would the same usual suspects among MPs make every imaginable problem a Raila Odinga problem? Why can’t they see that this is a coalition government with a Head of State, a Vice president and a Prime Minister? Are they aware that the ministers of Environment, Forests, Natural Resources and National Security are all from PNU?

Why do they find it easier to put all blames one of their own, their party leader rather than the whole government? Why did they find it difficult to call Raila and President Kibaki to alert them of the unfolding disaster so that as a cabinet they could put their heads together to sort out the problem?

Which one was easier and more productive, to consult the Cabinet and solve the problem or to rush to the roadside and make fools of themselves in front of Kenyans and the entire world?

The utterances made by William Ruto’s ardent supporters were telling. Two of them, a man and a woman MP declared that Raila did not win the 2009 elections and that he should be sacked so that Kibaki rules alone. Fair enough.

The question that begs answers now is that if Raila Odinga did not win then who won? Who then did they kill for? Why did they burn churches, buses and send 600,000 Kenyans into internal displacement? Isn’t this the kind of childishness and cheap publicity stunts that Kenyans do not expect from their “honorable” leaders?

Let me go back to Gideon Moi’s statement a day earlier in the same venue. And it does not matter whether he wanted to capitalize on the Mau saga for his political gains. He questioned the wisdom of the same ministers from Rift Valley flying to Mombasa to burn Ks 10 million in just two days only to fly again to Rift Valley to condemn the same government they were part of. Had they declined to go to that “unproductive bonding” trip and donated that money to the Mau evictees, Kenyans would have believed them. They did not.

Perhaps it is time we ordinary Kenyans stood up to these rogue leaders and told them the truth. And the truth is this: If you are a member of the government in the position of a cabinet minister or an assistant minister, and you feel you have nothing in common with that government, the only honorable thing you must do as a matter of principle and good practice is to resign and be free now to challenge the government from outside the cabinet. It is wrong and immoral for our leaders to want to have their cakes and eat them at the same time.

Our leaders must learn the meaning of sacrifice. If you differ with the government, you must be ready to do away with its trappings of power. Jaramogi, Oneko and Murumbi did it in 1966 under Jomo Kenyatta. Kenyans still respect them up to today. Kenneth Matiba did just that in 1988 under Moi and Kenyans still adore him for that to this day. We expect cabinet ministers who are in this government no matter who they are or where they come from to spare us the embarrassment from time to time and quite to join the swelling opposition in Parliament. If they truly have the guts as leaders, this is the only thing they must do for Kenyans.

That is the way it is!