Thursday, October 14, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

October 14, 2010

I like John Michuki’s politics. It is straight and to the point. The old man from Muranga does not know how to go around the bend to make his opinion known. His no nonsense approach to issues is what makes Kenyans say they will miss him when he finally bows out of active politics.

Remember that it was John Michuki who in the early days of the NARC regime reminded Kenyans that DP advocated for the Prime Minister’s position simply because the party was not sure Moi and KANU could be dislodged from power. However, when the two were finally shown the door, there was no need for Kenyans to keep asking for the premiership. At that time he likened politics to a piece of fresh liver that must be juggled in both hands all the time lest it drops down.

When the Artur brothers appeared on the scene and were linked to the Standard Newspaper raids, John Michuki, unlike the then Minister for Information & Communications, Mutahi Kagwe, came out in the open and told a stunned nation that the Standard raid was a government operation adding that “if you rattle a snake, prepare for the snake bite”.

At the height of the Mungiki menace when murders were the order of the day in parts of Rift Valley, Nairobi and Central Provinces, John Michuki as Minister for Internal Security went after the thugs with unprecedented resolve. His security forces hunted and summarily executed the sect members without apology to anybody. In his mind, he was executing what the law said.

As Minister for Transport, Kenyans remember with nostalgia how he went after the lawless matatu operators with unprecedented zeal. In a matter of weeks, all public service vehicles fitted speed governors and seat belts. For the first time all matatus had yellow strips while touts and drivers were forced to wear uniforms apart from obtaining certificates of good conduct from police stations.

This independence of mind is what made Michuki be the last person to join the Referendum bandwagon never mind that his friend Mwai Kibaki was leading the Yes campaign. When he finally joined the campaign in his Muranga home town, he had no problems reminding the President he was joining the Yes campaign for his friend’s sake and not because he believed in the new constitution.

It was therefore very much in his character to choose his Muranga base to remind Kikuyus that after President Kibaki is gone, the tribe should rally behind Uhuru as the next tribal chief. And for this he has earned his fair share of condemnation from among his ethnic community he was talking for.

However, before we condemn Michuki for being a tribal chauvinistic, let us remember that despite the new constitution, none of the 42 Kenyan communities has shed that tribal skin from our national politics. We are still embroiled in tribal alliances such as the Kamba- Kalenjin- Kikuyu Alliances. Kambas are still struggling to find a flag bearer for the presidency as the Luhya MPs have for the umpteenth time converged to vow that 2012 is their year to produce a president.

This desire for a tribal supremo has its origins in Kenyan politics dating back to the 1960s when Kenya attained independence.

At that time, defacto regional or tribal leaders were all well known and respected nationalists. We had Jomo Kenyatta from Central Province, Harvester Angaine, the self-styled King of Meru from Meru, Jeremiah Nyagah from Embu, Paul Ngei from Ukambani, Ronald Ngala from Coast, Masinde Muliro from Luhyaland, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga from Nyanza, Daniel arap Moi from Kalenjin and to some extent John Keen and Joseph Murumbi from Maasailand.

With the passing of time, these heroes of the 1960s have been replaced by new ones either from the same families or new ones have emerged outside those royalties such that today we have Mwai Kibaki from Central, Raila Odinga from Nyanza, Musalia Mudavadi from Western, William Ruto from Kalenjin, William Ole Ntimama from Maasailand, Kalonzo Musyoka from Ukambani, Kiraitu Murungi from Meru and Joe Nyagah from Embu. Meanwhile, it is not yet clear who leads the Coast region. Therefore if Michuki is worried that there will be a void when Kibaki leaves the scene, it is very much within the parameters of Kenya’s tribal politics.

As it is, the loudest violent noise has come from my neighbors in Luhyaland who feel pained that for the last 47 years, other communities have used them as a ladder to climb to the presidency. Much as there is merit in what they are saying; it is also true that for the 47 years, nobody has stopped them from seeking the presidency. That is why it is also refreshing to note that for the 2012, they have offered no less than five candidates. Whether they realize their dream or not; is another matter altogether.

Another thing, in 47 years of independence, only two tribes have produced a president which makes the question of latter untenable. However, one thing is for sure in these utterances; if we don’t tone down on our ethnic rhetoric, the unity of this country even under the new constitution will always remain a mirage.