By Jerry Okungu
July 29, 2013
The year is 1963. Kenya becomes independent from British rule under the Lancaster Constitution. A year later, sections of the Lancaster constitution are amended to allow for the dissolution of the opposition party.
Following the dissolution of KADU, Kenyatta makes another tactical move to dissolve the many centres of power that the Lancaster Constitution had created to safeguard the interests of the regions and minority tribes. This move sees the death of the Senate and Regional Assemblies. And with KADU having died earlier, the supremacy of the Executive begins to be felt all over the country. Now it is possible for the Leader of Government Business and the Attorney General to move any bill in parliament with a certain level of confidence.
With the coming into the cabinet of former KADU leaders, Ronald Ngala and Daniel arap Moi, cracks begin to emerge in KANU. Factions are formed along leading lights in KANU. There are pro Odinga and pro Kenyatta factions. Kenyatta however gets the backing of Tom Mboya, the KANU Secretary General for a good reason. Mboya wants to succeed Kenyatta when the time comes, never mind that Jaramogi Oginga Odinga is the sitting Vice President and heir apparent to Jomo Kenyatta. Indeed it is clear to all and sundry that Mboya and Odinga are political rivals-never mind that they both come from Nyanza.
As these intrigues, fuelled by international spy agencies, pick momentum, the stage is set for early brutal assassinations
The first giant to fall is Pio Gama Pinto who gets shot dead in Parklands Nairobi. Pinto was known to be Jaramogi Odinga’s chief ideologue and was feared by most operatives in KANU including Jomo Kenyatta.
The death of Pinto, though a Goan devastates not only Jaramogi Odinga but also fellow comrade in the struggle, Joseph Murumbi who is the Foreign Minister at the time.
The same year that Pinto dies, the relations between Jaramogi and Jomo become more strained. To observers in and outside government; it is just a matter of time before battle for supremacy is fought in the public arena.
Then the bubble goes bust on March 13 1966 at the Limuru Conference Centre. And as Karega Munene captures the moment in his Wajibu Series,
“The ethnic maneuvers by the troika of Kenyan politics and their lieutenants culminated in the 13 March 1966 KANU national delegates meeting at the Limuru Conference Centre, ostensibly to hold party elections. As it soon emerged, the meeting's agenda was to get rid of the then KANU Vice-President who was also the country's Vice-President, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. The key architect of the organizational format, who was used in cutting Oginga Odinga to size at the meeting, was Tom Mboya. By using Mboya in this way, Kenyatta probably intended to blunt charges of tribalism that could easily have been levelled against him (as a Gikuyu leader) at the time. To a casual observer, the political intrigue and battle was simply a Luo affair.”
This move by Kenyatta and Mboya against Jaramogi has predictable consequences. They know that Jaramogi will surely be furious and likely to resign in a huff. And that is what happens. Jaramogi resigns the same day as KANU Vice President and Vice President of the country and a few days later forms the first post independence opposition party- KPU- Kenya Peoples Union. Remember, this happens before any amendment in the Standing Orders of Parliament or the Constitution requiring MPs that opt to join a new party to return to the electorate to seek a fresh mandate.
For this reason, Jaramogi’s KPU causes a common in parliament and panic in the Kenyatta cabinet. Left unchecked, Jaramogi’s new party has the potential to bring down Jomo’s government. For this reason, Mboya is detailed to move a motion in parliament to compel any MP who crosses the floor to resign his seat and seek a fresh mandate from the electorate.
Subsequently the Speaker of the National Assembly declares seats of those MPs that had crossed the floor vacant and a by election is set. This is what culminates in the now famous “Little General Election of 1966”.
The aftermath of the 1966 “Little General Elections” is a disaster for Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. It spells the death knell for his political career without him knowing it.
The behavior of KANU, particularly that of Tom Mboya ensures that KPU loses massively in Local Government Councils and Parliament. Just a few days before the elections, Mboya tours the whole country castigating KPU and Odinga’s pesa nane politics. He goes ahead and ropes in the Provincial Administration to vet and disqualify as many of KPU candidates as possible such that most KANU candidates are elected unopposed.
At the end of the day, some of Jaramogi’s most prominent figures in KPU like Bildad Kaggia and Achieng Oneko lose in their constituencies. Odinga ends up with about six KPU MPs, a number that finally becomes ineffective in parliament.
With Jaramogi neutralized, Kenyatta systematically begins to get rid of Luo appointees in government particularly if their appointments were courtesy of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. This political witch hunting goes on until January 29 1969 when Argwings Kodhek, the Foreign Minister dies in a mysterious road accident in Nairobi. Six months later, his fellow cabinet minister, Tom Mboya is also assassinated along Government Road in Nairobi on July 5 1969.
The aftermath of Mboya’s assassination is followed by a fracas in Kisumu involving Jomo Kenyatta where eleven civilians are shot dead, Odinga and all KPU MPs detained and KPU banned. This further worsens the plight of Luos that remained in the Kenyatta regime as more purging takes place.
Is the Uhuru regime likely to read from the same script in dealing with Raila Odinga four decades later?