Tuesday, December 25, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
December 25, 2012

Since it is the festive season in memory of the birth of the most enduring historical figure that ever traversed this earth, let me too take leave of my daily pain and politics and look at the little things that we hardly pay attention to under normal circumstances.

In this regard, let me take this early opportunity to thank all my readers, editors, friends and family for having walked with me through 2012. I wish you merry Christmas and a blessed 2013.

I know a number of you may have noticed my reduced appearance on the local scene and must have wondered what might have happened. A number of you with sharp intuition guessed it right and actually called. Yes, I have been in hospital again for the last six weeks suffering from the same old condition.

Some of you may recall when I filed a story from Khartoum, North Sudan in late November this year. I had gone there in high spirits to run a project for three weeks for the Darfur political movements. Everything went smoothly for the first eight days until one afternoon, hell broke loose.

I must thank the staff of the International Republican Institute who rushed me to the nearby private hospital and the wonderful medical staff in Khartoum who did all they could to stabilize me for close to 10 hours before I was evacuated to Nairobi.

As I lay in my Nairobi hospital bed, I saw many things on the political scene. I saw Nelson Mandela share in my predicament way down in South Africa. I saw President Zuma win the ANC when others had written him off. I saw elections in Ghana go smoothly without any serious street madness.

On the local scene, I saw political mergers left and right. I saw high level political backstabbing, betrayal and conmanship of the highest order in my country.
But I also saw good and realistic Kenyans who saw their limitations and formed respectable exit strategies from the presidential race.

I saw good politicians who through sheer foolishness throw their political careers into the dustbin in broad daylight. I saw political hyenas masquerading as supporters leading their victims to the slaughter houses. I saw political cowards refusing to face the electorate in open nominations. I saw egocentric self styled clean individuals still entertain the illusion that they would be Kenya’s 4th president. I saw merchants of political deals trade places again and again, abandoning their parties without the slightest guilt.

On this hospital bed, I saw the second Tana Delta massacre come to me live on my television screen and I wondered aloud what on earth had gone wrong with my society.
On that bed I wondered aloud where our government and its security arsenal were.
On that bed, I waited to hear any serious condemnation and the steps to take to capture the murderers.
I never had any.

While lying on my bed, it dawned on me that just because I was bedridden, the Electoral commission had chosen to disenfranchise me just like it had done to many Kenyans in hospitals, prisons and overseas despite the low turnout of voters in rural villages. And now, like millions of Kenyans, I will not elect my leaders because the IEBC had decided my fate. Yes, in their wisdom, my vote would not matter just because I was hospitalized!

Being in hospital can be lonely. It is only when you are confined there in prisonlike uniforms and a tag on your wrist do you realize that your release is not in your hands. The doctor is king there. He is the Alfa and Omega. His orders are gospel truth for the nursing fraternity.

If he orders 20 different drugs to be administered at the same time, nurses will strive to carry out the order irrespective of the patient’s welfare. It is only when a patient throws up do they express shock and frantically call the doctor only for the doctor to administer more and anti-vomiting ammunitions.

It is in the hospital where you will discover that there are two types of healthcare personnel.
You will find one set that is diligent, intelligent, ethical and caring. This lot will strive to do everything right in the interest and for the comfort of the patient. They will smile, greet you and say goodnight to you on arrival and departure. They will know you by your first name rather than by your ward number.

However, in the same institution, you will find rough, ill-trained, rude and downright reckless and careless individuals. This is the group that gets easily irritated by patients.
It is the lot that an emergency bell means nothing to. You can ring the bell until the cows come home and when they appear at the door, you can read anger and venom written all over their faces.

There is one thing in a hospital that has become the tormentor of people of all ages. No matter how many times one has faced the syringe in the past; it is always a new and different experience. The degree of pain depends on that nurse that administers it. Some are downright malicious and seem to enjoy the pain they are inflicting on the poor soul.

After all is said and done, I suppose when one is lonely and confined in hospital or prison; the moment of reflection truly flourishes. It is when one realizes the little things that matter in life. The true meanings of freedom and happiness blossom.

Thursday, December 13, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
December 12, 2012

This week Kenya celebrated its 49th Uhuru Birthday. However, Kenyan history is being distorted before our very eyes. Those born after Uhuru may never know the difference between Uhuru Day and Jamhuri Day.

This week, Kenya celebrated 49 years since we attained independence. It was Uhuru that was attained on December 12 1963 not Jamhuri. 

A year later on the same day, the nation became a republic under Jomo Kenyatta. It is therefore correct to say that it is 48 years since Kenya became a republic.

To tell you the truth, Uhuru Day was more historic and euphoric than Jamhuri a year later. On that day of December 12 1963, the British flag was lowered as the Kenyan flag climbed Mt. Kenya.

As little kids in early primary schools, we didn’t know much about what Uhuru was in our villages but we knew something big was about to happen in Kenya. However, because of the hype by the then freedom fighters who we had only heard of, news filtered that independence was coming very soon and it was being brought from England in a big aeroplane by Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. That was all we knew even though none of us had ever seen them.

Village Uhuru heroes were very good at  giving us heroic deeds of Jaramogi, Oneko, Mboya, Kenyatta and Masinde Muliro, confusing the latter with another Masinde the sect leader at the time.

We were told countless times how Mboya, Kenyatta and Jaramogi, through their magical powers had cheated death planned for them by the colonial masters and their collaborators in Kenya and abroad. To us therefore, these three musketeers were invincible supermen that no human power could destroy- not even the Mzungu’s smoking gun.

In our little villages, our small minds were fed with Uhuru fantasies.
With the fall of White power, all the big jobs, houses, cars and trains would belong to us. 
 We were told by our village heroes that all the good things in life, milk, honey and all would flow in to the village and that all those beautiful mission houses belonging to White missionaries would be given to us for free.

There would after Uhuru be free education, medical care and that all forms of transport would be free. This free access to everything our hearts desired was in tandem with the impending freedom- freedom to acquire.

What our heroes never told us was that the fruits of Uhuru we were anticipating would only come through sheer hard work. We were to learn the hard way years later when Jomo Kenyatta started talking of Uhuru na kazi- that nothing was going to be for free.

In my little mind I took literary what my village activists had promised me.
 And so, on the morning of December 12 1963, I walked away from home to our local market three miles away. From there I proceeded to the bus stop and got into one of the big buses plying Nairobi Kisumu route. Indeed I was given a free ride to Kisumu 42km away from home. When I got to the town, hell broke loose.

The multitude that greeted me at the bus stop caught me bewildered. I was literally lost in this sea of humanity. What was worse; I had no money and did not know how to get back to Awasi.

It then occurred to me that one of my teachers, Mr. Solomon Ageng’o had joined East African Railways and Harbours and was the Station Master at Lela near Maseno. However, how to get to the Kisumu Railway station was another issue since I was in Kisumu for the first time alone in my life.

After several attempts I finally got to the Railway Station and reported my plight to the Station Master who promptly radioed my teacher. However, by that time, the Kisumu Butere line was long gone. The next train would depart at 6am. I had to spend the first chilly Uhuru night at the railway station.

Soon after independence, we started seeing symbols of freedom for our peasant village elders. Poll taxes were abolished. Forced labour especially in the Chief’s camps was abolished. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, an anti-colonialist had long held the view that  Chiefs, Sub Chiefs and Headmen had no role in modern Kenya as they had been used by the colonial government to suppress and oppress peasants.

To effect his policy shift, as Home Affairs Minister, he forced chiefs to be elected by the villagers.

It is funny that what our new constitution is trying to give us 49 years later we had from the beginning. The 1963 Uhuru ushered in a central government under the Prime Minister and less than 20 ministers and their permanent secretaries.

The same Lancaster Constitution gave us the Senate and eight regional governments complete with their governors and regional assemblies. This dream government that was forced on Kenyans by the then opposition KADU was the ideal arrangement that should have ensured equity from day one.

However, due to blind euphoria and faith in our founding fathers, we let our hard won Uhuru die on its first birthday. In its place came Jamhuri with absolute authority of the president. Overnight, the opposition KADU, the Senate was gone, regional assemblies were abolished and the Prime Minister became the President without any reference to Kenyans.

This situation was not unique to Kenya. It was the same story in Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and most British former colonies at the time.

For Kenya, the 49 long years were punctuated by loss of freedom, political assassinations, rampant official looting of public resources and a mini civil war.
For our troubles, we got a new constitution.

Would things have worked out differently had we remained a British dominion for a while just like Canada, New Zealand and Australia had done before us?
 We will never know

Saturday, December 8, 2012



P. Anyang' Nyong'o Sunday Standard December 9th. 2012 I want to thank all the members of the ODM who did so much to make our National Delegates Convention such a great success on Friday, the seventh of December. I do so in recognition of the fact that this was a meeting of patriotic Kenyans ready to implement the constitution, see to it that we have devolved government serving the Kenyan people, and harness all our resources to develop an equitable, just, democratic and prosperous nation governed by a national, democratic and developmental state. First, thank you the party branches and branch leaders, you have done us proud. Thank you delegates, you are the rock on which the ODM party is built. Second, our thanks go to all our national leaders: MPs, Ministers, Assistant Ministers, members of the National Executive Committee and the Governing Council. You represent the mosaic of our nation, a living proof that ODM is a truly national movement. Third, the Young Orange Democrats and the Orange Women Democrats, you are the movers and shakers of our party; your work is always cut out for you. Thank you for living up to our expectation, but we want and expect more from you. Fourth, thank you the Convention Organizing Committee, led By Hon. Paul Otuoma, the indomitable Minister of Local Government; we are proud of what we saw on Friday: a convention venue like no other south or north of the Equator. Fifth, the Secretariat at Orange House, led by the ever patient Janet Ongera, our Executive Director. A lot of what you do, sometimes all night without sleeping, is only known by a few members of the party. But the results speak for themselves. Thank you, God bless you. Lastly, to our Party Leader, Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga. Thank you for captaining our ship which must now sail across the River Jordan into the promised land. The visitors you invited from the Sudanese National Congress Party (NCP), the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in Tanzania, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) of Uganda and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Zimbabwe made a great difference to the Convention. A true sense of regional integration in Africa was vivid in what these leaders said. Prime Minister, Morgan Tsangirai, leader of MDC, has so much in common with us that politically; Kenya and Zimbabwe are truly political siamese twins regarding crises in political transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. Wahenga wanasema, "SIMBA MWENDA POLE, NDIYE MLA NYAMA." In 2002, with only two words, KIBAKI TOSHA, Raila Amolo Odinga gallantly gave up his own quest for the Presidency so that the then opposition could come together and end the authoritarian regime that had misruled this country for a whole 24 years. It was quite clear that, from that day onwards, Raila would make the journey to the Kenyan presidency step by step. In 2008, although the ODM won the elections, Raila sacrificed his victory for the sake of peace, reconciliation and national unity, and signed the NATIONAL ACCORD. The result is now the DEMOCRATIC CONSTITUTION Kenyans had been fighting for for decades. The time has come to implement this constitution, and Kenyans need reassurance that this task will be accomplished after the elections in March next year. Kenyans are, and they require national unity to achieve this peacefully and democratically. A broad national democratic front in our politics is the surest way to do this. When we in ODM talk of building a national, democratic and developmental society as we implement this institution, we cannot forget our sisters and brothers in other parties who must be included in this process of momentous social transformation. The politics of inclusion must take center stage in this transformation. The ODM is a movement of the Kenyan people born out of he struggle for constitutional change. We are a movement of the Kenyan people, coming from somewhere and going somewhere. We are coming out of authoritarian rule and marching towards democratic governance. We happen to know where we have come from, hence we must be sure if where we are going. So we can't get lost. Wahenga wanasema "Penye nia hapakosi njia." The national institutions that will either make us or unmake us in this process of democratization are the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) who are in charge of the electoral process, now underway in the registration of voters. This process, if truth be told, is not going on very well. There is tremendous doubt that we shall have registered 18 million Kenyans within the next 2 weeks. The IEBC needs to reflect on this very careful and come out with a solution that will guarantee Kenyans a truly democratic election. The other arm of government critical to this process is the security apparatus of the state comprising the police, the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS), public administrative services under the President's office and the national defense institutions. A consensus must emerge among all these institutions that a poorly handled general and presidential elections will have far reaching negative effects on Kenya's development, standing among civilized nations and leadership in the Eastern Africa Region. The ODM is ready to work with all other political parties to maintain peace and security in our nation,seek national reconciliation arising from past acts of omission and commission by government, thereby causing conflicts among communities and perpetrating injustice and discrimination of diverse kinds in our society. Together we shall cross this bridge peacefully. Scattered and disunited in purpose we shall languish in conflicts, indignity among our people and underdevelopment that may continue for decades and decades.

Friday, December 7, 2012



By Jerry Okungu Nairobi, Kenya December 5, 2012 In the last American presidential elections, aging American actors Chuck Norris and Clint Eastwood fell over each other in their profuse support for Mitt Romney. Now that is what I call like-minded. If Romney could champion the cause of ultra conservative America despite his relatively young age, it meant that his thought process had been conditioned to preserve the old America. No wonder the new America rejected their retrogressive way of life. This week, Kenya’s main political parties gave us a glimpse of what they had being saying all along. They said they would form alliances with like-minded colleagues. They did not disappoint. First on the cue of these marriages of convenience were Uhuru Kenya, William Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi. These were the kingpins of KANU who fought against change and reforms ten years ago under the leadership of Daniel Moi. As Kenyans did all they could to defeat the forces of evil that had been visited upon them by the Nyayo regime for decades by the aging Moi, younger brains such as Uhuru, Ruto and Mudavadi never saw anything wrong. Moi had done a good job of it schooling them in the old ways. And just like the case of Romney, Chuck Norris and Clint Eastwood across the Atlantic, the tsunami of reforms sank them in the deep sea; again another case of political like-mindedness. The same year that Moi’s boat was sinking with his like-minded younger ministers, another cluster of like-minded politicians had regrouped together under the Rainbow coalition to change the regime. They included radicals like Koigi Wamwere, Kivutha Kibwana, Raila Odinga, Kijana Wamalwa, Anyang Nyongo, Ole Ntimama, Martha Karua, Martin Shikuku, Kiraitu Murungi, Gitobu Imanyara and Paul Muite among others. However, this group also included conservatives like Moody Awori, Fred Gumo, Mwai Kibaki, Charity Ngilu, George Saitoti, Kalonzo Musyoka and Najib Balala as well. Although this latter group had a combination of progressives and conservations, they were bound by the common desire to change the 40 year old regime. In the final analysis, they had their day in the court of public opinion at Uhuru Park on December 30 2002. As we witnessed signatures of like-minded politicians flying from right to left in front camera at Jivanjee Gardens, Kenyatta Conference Center and good old Norfolk Hotel this week, we saw history repeating itself with scary similarity. We saw the reemergence of KANU under a different name but with blood red colours intact. Only Moi the drum major was missing in action. As we watched Raila Odinga, Charity Ngilu, Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetangula and many more former NARC members dance on stage, we remembered the “Unbwogable” Narc theme of 2002 that set the country ablaze with excitement. Missing inaction too were Mwai Kibaki, Kijana Wamalwa, Martha Karua and Moody Awori. These are the two like-minded political parties that want to battle it out for the leadership of Kenya; one to move us forward; the other to rewind the clock. The third force is equally intriguing. This is composed of just two people- Peter Kenneth and Raphael Tuju. Much as they would wish to be president of this country in three months; theirs is a tall order. However, both youthful hopefuls have one bond in common; they were at Starehe Boys School together. Whether they share a common vision for Kenya is the subject of another day. In this theatre of like-mindedness, competing characters have misread the political strategy and style of one man. That man is Raila Amolo Odinga, previously described as the enigma of Kenyan politics. Just like his father who through sheer determination became Kenya’s unrivalled doyen of opposition politics, Raila over the last 20 years has become the master of coalition politics. He invented it in Kenya under unusual times in 1997 and still changes its face from time to time when it suits him; it is like he has all leading politicians, young and old under radar. Who would have imagined Raila cooperating with Moi his tormenter of 9 years from 1997 to 2002 under the KANU-NDP alliance? Yet that was what he did with ease without blinking any eye! In return, he was rewarded with cabinet posts and a top post in KANU, the party that had inflicted pain on him for years. Who would have believed that he could walk out of KANU just after months following the merger? Yet when he left, he took with him a chunk of the KANU luminaries of the day- JJ Kamotho, George Saitoti, William Ole Ntimama, Kalonzo Musyoka, Fred Gumo and Moody Awori among others? Yet that was what he did. Observers assumed that since he had disorganized KANU from within, he would run for president against Moi’s political machine. Yet he was too smart for that. He would bid his time and rally his troops under Kibaki to give Mwai the elusive presidency. He was aware that at the time, Kenya was not ready for a Luo presidency. However, if he, a Luo could back a Kikuyu presidency, this act alone could prove to Kenyans that the two communities’ bad blood could be cleansed. It was not to be. Soon after NARC won elections, he was betrayed again. He was sidelined and finally sacked from Kibaki’s government. It was time to go back to the drawing board and build another coalition. With a few remaining loyalists from NDP and KANU renegades, he went into overdrive to convince opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta and his team to join him in driving change through a new constitution. The new force was composed of himself, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Kalonzo Musyoka, Fred Gumo, JJ Kamotho and Martin Shikuku among others. When the 2005 referendum votes were counted, he had defeated the government by a landslide. In a fit of anger, Kibaki sacked all ministers allied to Raila. This was the birth of his new party ODM. Two years later, he had to form another coalition to challenge Mwai Kibaki. To do this, he formed a loose coalition later to be nicknamed the Pentagon under the ODM party. Its leading members were Joe Nyagah from Mt. Kenya, Najib Balala from Mombasa, Musalia Mudavadi from Western Kenya, William Ruto from Rift Valley, Charity Ngilu from Eastern region, William Ole Ntimama from Masailand, Henry Kosgey from Eldoret, Sally Kosgey from North Rift, Kipkalias Kones from South Rift, James Orengo from Nyanza and Omigo Magara from Gusi region. This is the group that gave President Kibaki a run for his money, an election that ended in a stalemate. When it was impossible to decide who won the 2007 elections as Kenya burned, he quickly accepted a mediated settlement to share power with Kibaki. In this narrative, there is a common thread that runs through Raila’s politics. He is quick to discard friends and embrace old enemies depending on circumstances. He is a forgiving and reconciliatory strategist who believes that the end justifies the means. It is this little detail that his political opponents have never grasped. That is why his latest move has sent shockwaves throughout the political landscape when he put together a coalition 14 political parties. jerryokungu@gmail.com