Wednesday, January 11, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
January 10, 2012

Two political events took place this week in Kampala that reminded me of Kenya’s own situation; never mind that right now the real story in Nairobi is the riveting gun saga surrounding the Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza. The story is so big in Kenyan media that it has even overshadowed the war in Somalia.

The reason the Justice Baraza story is causing ripples is simply because she has an ordinary security watchman as her adversary. She is alleged to have pinched the nose of this female guard manning a security checkpoint at one of the up market shopping malls. More than pinching her nose, the victim claims that Deputy Chief Justice actually drew a gun and threatened to shoot her for insisting on giving the judge a body search like all ordinary Kenyans.

In Uganda, Dr. Kizze Besigye the FDC president has made an ambiguous statement about his political future. Having competed against Yoweri Museveni for the presidency and lost three times in fifteen years, he has decided not to run for president if Museveni is still the President. The reason he gives is as intriguing as the announcement itself. He claims that the reason he will not run against Museveni is because the President is a dictator! However, should Museveni pull out of the 2016 race, Ugandans are sure to see Besigye’s name on the ballot.

Kizze Besigye should be honest with his followers. He has no business running away from a worthy opponent only to return to the arena once he is sure a weaker opponent . Good and strong leaders change bad leaders. They don’t run away from them. Kenyans removed KANU from power in 2002 by confronting Moi and his project at the ballot. Without the resilience of the likes of Raila Odinga, Kijana Wamalwa, Charity Ngilu, Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, James Orengo, Paul Muite and others, the mugumo tree would have not fallen. Without Raila Odinga’s rebellion from within KANU in late 2002, chances of having KANU in power would today be a real possibility.

In the last one year, regimes stronger than the NRM- the likes of Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi have fallen by the way side. It was the resilience of the people in those countries, convinced that such leaders led rotten regimes that drove them to change those regimes.

Perhaps all these fifteen good years, Kizze Besigye never really had a strong political agendum or genuine grievances against Museveni’s regime. If indeed he had any, he failed to articulate them for the people of Uganda.

If Besigye wants to retire from politics with some semblance of dignity, now is the time to take that brave bow. Ugandans and indeed East Africans will remember him as a principled politician who called it a day when he realized that his time was up.

At a personal level it would be tragic if Museveni were to announce his own retirement from politics in 2016 only for Besigye to be defeated by a political light weight. Let Besigye emulate the American politicians. Most of them who run once and lose always retire from the race and continue to serve their country in different capacities. The society respects them for such humility.

Here in Kenya, President Kibaki will retire after ten years at the helm of Kenyan politics. Among the contenders to succeed him will be Raila Odinga who will be contesting for the third time. Kenyans expect that this is his last time to contest the presidency. If he wins, he is expected to be at the helm for a decade. However, should he lose this time round, Kenyans expect him to retire from active politics with honour.

The other story I found interesting was the abortive UPC meeting that was boycotted by almost all its elected MPs. It would appear like Amb. Olara Otunnu the party president is not in control. This kind of rebellion calls for soul searching because it is an indictment of his leadership. A leader who cannot rally his MPs behind him cannot claim to be in control.

As Olara Otunnu was having his nightmares in Kampala, a new party in Kenya called PNU Alliance was facing a similar vote of no confidence from its constituent members.
Formed on the eve of Kibaki’s departure from national politics, PNU Alliance was cobbled up as an offshoot of PNU, the President’s party for the sole purpose of stopping Raila Odinga’s presidency. The promoters of PNU Alliance have tried to rally the main political parties like Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Party, the President’s PNU, Uhuru Kenyatta’s KANU, William Ruto’s UDM and Eugene Wamalwa’s New Ford Kenya. However a planned joint launch last Friday failed to materialize after three main party leaders indicated that they would not be available. A rescheduled launch for this Friday has all the characteristics of coming to nothing after Uhuru Kenyatta’s KANU has categorically stated that it will not attend because it is not part of the Alliance.

This development calls into question the viability of forming pre-election coalitions in Kenya. However what worries Kenyans more is the Alliance’s lack of political agenda other than stopping a particular individual from becoming President. In some quarters this fear of Raila is what some pundits refer to as Railaphobia created to balance Railamania. Whether this strategy will culminate in derailing Raila Odinga presidency, the jury is still out there.


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