Sunday, March 7, 2010



March 6 2010

I am writing this open letter to you because you are a senior public servant with the ear of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, one of the two most powerful men in Kenya.

In that role, you must be held accountable for what you say and write publicly, and the decorum with which you comport yourself.

The bottom line is that with responsibility comes accountability. Since you are the PM’s adviser, it is impermissible for you to publicly express contrarian views that are independent of the PM’s on matters of national importance.

You are Mr Odinga’s mouthpiece, and anything you say is deemed to be his official view.

A cardinal rule is that servants in the king’s court have no “public minds” of their own. Like ambassadors they only – and solely – represent the king.

I am not a censor, but professional responsibility and statecraft demand that we excise the loose lips of public servants who work in the inner sanctum of the state.

That’s the reason Dr Alfred Mutua, once the ubiquitous but reviled voice of the Kibaki regime, is nevertheless a bellwether for what is cooking in State House. When Francis Muthaura speaks, everyone knows that he is speaking for President Kibaki.

Both Dr Mutua and Ambassador Muthaura do not have minds of their own. Nor does Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, who is President Barack Obama’s official megaphone.

Not even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expresses views contrary to President Obama. She works for him to carry out his foreign policy agenda. She must march in lock step with him or step aside were she to publicly repudiate his official policies.

This does not mean that she cannot express dissent, or offer contradictory opinions behind closed doors. But that is a different matter.

I am sure that President Obama encourages the expression of diverse and fiercely contested views in private. This is how a leader creates an atmosphere conducive to the honest brokerage of information.

Only after listening to vigorously competing views can leaders formulate wise and effective decisions. But once the decision is made, all the president’s men and women must sing from the same script in public.

This is not only the genesis of the notion of collective responsibility, but also the foundation of public trust.

Public confidence is undermined when a leader and his senior aides appear to pull in different directions.

You conflate your role as Miguna Miguna, the PM’s adviser, with your rights as Miguna Miguna, the private citizen, if you speak in contradiction of Mr Odinga’s publicly stated position. We, the public, are then free to think one of several things, none of them flattering of either the PM, or you.

Either Mr Odinga is deliberately using you as a hatchet man to say what he won’t publicly, or you are being insubordinate.

If the former, the PM looks like he lacks courage and could lose credibility in the eyes of the public. If the latter, the PM looks weak-kneed for failing to fire you. You are a liability to the PM either way.

I write this letter because of your vitriolic attacks on the Naivasha Consensus that has brought Kenya within an eyelash of a new constitution. The PSC – composed of equal parts ODM and PNU – rose to the occasion and hammered out a consensual draft constitution.

It is too bad if the ODM side did not consult you, or heed your advice on the matter.

Mr Odinga, like the statesman that he has become, publicly and fully embraced the PSC draft. He zealously declared at several rallies that ODM fully backed the PSC draft and that we would get a new constitution come hell or high water.

In a word, Mr Odinga owned the Naivasha Consensus and became its most prominent salesman. Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, ODM secretary-general, has publicly affirmed the party’s support for the Naivasha draft.

But I am shocked to read your screeds and diatribes against the Naivasha draft. You denounced it as a sellout for providing a presidential system and rejecting majimbo in its devolution scheme.

Mr Miguna, were you speaking for yourself, or the PM? Or are you an aide gone rogue?

Since the PM has not fired or publicly contradicted you, the public rightly thinks that ODM is talking from sides of its mouth.

This makes the PM look bad, and creates the appearance of opportunism. The PM must either immediately repudiate your attack on the Naivasha draft, or put you out to pasture for embarrassing him.

I want also to draw attention to the coarseness and incivility of your language. You write with the haughtiness of an insecure person. Why the megalomania? You hurl intemperate insults at people you disagree with as though you have a monopoly on truth and intellect.

Humility is the sine qua non of credible and honourable public service. Do not compound my scepticism for people with a double name, like Boutros Boutros. I urge you to internalise my criticism as constructive advice if you want to avoid a disgraceful exit from the public stage.

Makau Mutua is the Dean and SUNY Distinguished Professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School and Chair of the KHRC.


Submitted by mzeemoja
Posted March 07, 2010 03:10 PM

I doubt Miguna will take this lying down, by exposing him and his boss's contradictory double speak.

Submitted by kichwasafi
Posted March 07, 2010 02:48 PM

This Double M guy once described some friendly countries as failed states simply because he didn't like their constitutions. While responding to the AG over his interpretation of the powers of the PM vis-a-vis those of the President, he attacked him as someone not known for anything other than his perpetual smile. This guy is certainly doing the PM a lot more harm than good.

Submitted by inwani
Posted March 07, 2010 01:34 PM

As much as I concur that the Naivasha accord does not represent what Kenyans wanted, or indeed deserve, but rather a compromise for the political class to continue doing unto Kenyans what the colonialists did, I fully agree that bwana Miguna is out of line. Good advice!

Submitted by keoles
Posted March 07, 2010 01:28 PM

That's good advice to may Kenyans ,not only Miguna Miguna,wherever you work, take the institutions polices,don't apply yours.Congrats for the advice Prof.

Submitted by mpisha
Posted March 07, 2010 01:25 PM

At the first glance of Miguna,you see stubbornness,so i guess he will hit back to ignominious expletives.Big up Mutua!

Submitted by nihad
Posted March 07, 2010 01:21 PM

Miguna Miguna has a country to run back if things go wrong in our motherland . Where are we going ? Kenya is our home. So We should be carefull with him and by the way the PM has a double face. Who to trust come 2012 ?

Submitted by legu
Posted March 07, 2010 11:55 AM

Well written piece of advice to MM and the PM;

Submitted by proundeastafrican
Posted March 07, 2010 10:33 AM

Makau I totally agree with your great intellectual arguement regarding the conduct of Miguna Miguna. We need people in Kenya who can withstand an intellectual arguement without loosing their minds. Go Mutua go

Submitted by jabbarabu
Posted March 07, 2010 09:41 AM

Thank you prof. Mutua for speacking for us ordinary kenyans and remindung miguna that none has monopoly over truth and intellect.With all due respect to Miguna personally I think he is a hardliner whose views are not always the best 4 kenya in as far as the new constitution and power plays btn ODM and PNU..He should guard his mouth and no that Kenya is highly polarized country that shud be run in a consesus.

Submitted by aronoh
Posted March 07, 2010 07:15 AM

Tell him Prof Makau. Miguna has the tendency to mix his personal opinions with those of the civil servant and an advisor to the PM. But then again, his boss also has the same problem: introducing politics in the fight against corruption.

Submitted by Fkimanis
Posted March 07, 2010 06:57 AM

I hope that miguna guy takes the advice in good faith. However being a man of questionable intelligence, i highly doubt he will. But the problem is not Miguna himself, its his boss. Maybe he likes it that way

Submitted by jkiche
Posted March 07, 2010 06:20 AM

Yes Makau, tell him.