Wednesday, January 11, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
January 9, 2012

Recent events in Kenya’s public arena are beginning to cause worry among many citizens of this country especially those not gifted with the ability to exploit the media for self aggrandizement. Our constitution seems to have set us on a collision cause with our selves. Very soon brother will turn against brother, sister against sister and comrades against comrades. Yet, the media in this country seem to abet this kind of conflict from time to time. Quite often we have seen individuals of questionable character eager to settle imaginary disputes rush to the media with outrageous claims and the media are just too happy to carry the story.

Yet, in all this war of words, sometimes vicious and profane, we who are privileged to use the media are just too eager to take refuge in Chapter Six of our constitution that guarantees us freedom of expression just in case someone thinks we are crossing the line.

In the last several months, Miguna Miguna, the former adviser to Prime Minister Raila Odinga has doggedly entertained us with all manner of theatrics since he was thrown out of the Prime Minister’s office for reasons that were then explained as gross misconduct, unbecoming behaviour and general indiscipline. He has been accused of insubordination to his superiors while being discourteous to his juniors.

In a nutshell, Miguna Miguna has been accused of inability to behave like a civilized human being in a working environment. Under those circumstances, it would appear like it was becoming increasingly impossible for anyone to work with him in the PM’s office. Being a square peg where there were only round holes, time finally came for the square peg to be discarded.

It is true many of us outside the Prime Minister’s office may never know what transpired inside that office during Miguna’s tour of duty. We can only weigh the utterances of Miguna against the official statements of other officers and junior staff that may have interacted with him.

Another avenue through which we can decipher the character of Miguna has been the many articles that he authored before and after he was fired. The first lot was in total defense of the ODM and Prime Minister Raila Odinga as he railed against all enemies of the ODM, real and imagined in equal measure.

Yet, soon after he was fired for antagonizing the very fragile coalition he was hired to help nurture, he turned his guns on his former boss.

In doing all these things, Miguna as a lawyer probably most heavily relied on Chapter Six of the new constitution that guarantees all Kenyans freedom of expression. However, it would appear like the good lawyer only read part one of section 50 that states that every person has the right of expression which includes the right to seek, receive or import information or ideas. However, he didn’t seem to pay attention to part two of the same section that limits this freedom of expression. He never realized that this right does not extend to propaganda for war, incitement to violence, hate speech or advocacy of hatred that constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm.

He forgot to remember that in the exercise of his freedom of expression he, like every Kenyan was expected to respect the rights and reputation of others. Has Miguna Miguna in the cause of his writings, debates and public appearances on local TV networks respected the rights and reputation of Raila Odinga his main target?

In his articles either against or for Raila Odinga, has Miguna consistently violated this very freedom of expression by preaching hatred against fellow Kenyans, Raila Odinga included? When he directed his tirade against the then Attorney General Amos Wako at the UN convened ICC review meeting in Kampala, on whose behalf and benefit was this tirade executed? How was that base behaviour to benefit Raila Odinga his employer, ODM his party or the country?

Nobody doubts Miguna Miguna’s brilliance as a lawyer; after all we have never had an opportunity to rate him against other lawyers. However, there is no doubt that Miguna is a dare devil character that will stop at nothing to defend his boss with his blood, bones and skull if need be. Indeed this is an excellent attribute in situations of war.
Unfortunately we are not at war as a nation. PNU is not at war with ODM. Mwai Kibaki has not been at war with Raila Odinga. It is the reason they are in a coalition government for better or for worse.

Perhaps Miguna would have done a better job had he stuck to his job description- that of advising the Prime Minister on coalition matters. A good advisor works behind the scenes and advises his principal on fundamentals of the day. A good advisor can never be the principal’s spokesman. That job belongs to someone else with skills and common sense to gauge public mood and deliver the message in a palatable manner acceptable to the public.

To be a spokesman for any organization, the first principle to learn is the art of humility, discreteness and consultation before going public. More importantly, check and crosscheck your facts with your principal before you speak on his behalf. Most importantly, choose your words carefully- avoid arrogance, insults or abusive language!

Any political appointment such as the one Miguna Miguna, Kivutha Kibwana and Raphael Tuju got at the start of the coalition government needed sober characters with self respect. This is how Kibwana and Tuju conducted themselves. Decorum and discreetness guided their daily lives.

However, once the advisor finds that he can no longer agree with the principal on issues of the day, those with self respect do the only honourable thing. They don’t wait to be shown the door then throw tantrums. They resign their posts and go on with their lives.

In the case of Miguna, his behavior has left a lot to be desired. He has failed the test of humility terribly. One only hopes that he will recover in good time to pick up the pieces.

Yes, there is life after of a public office. Sell your rare skills to the numerous commissions in dire need of lawyers and leave Raila Odinga alone to go on with his politics.