Sunday, September 14, 2008



September 14, 2008
By Dennis Onyango
Sunday Standard

Being a party spokesman during the crisis, gave Mr Salim Lone a visibility. During a farewell party on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said his spokesman also won support even among ordinary people. But Lone says he also began to sense hostility from others.

Mr Salim Lone

Credible people he trusted began to advise him to be careful. A key Orange official told him that some opponents believed he was the one who had "poisoned the minds of members of the international media and the international community stationed in Kenya," against PNU.

At the peace talks at the Serena Hotel, Lone says, a Cabinet minister complained he was influencing the United Nation’s staff.

In her remarks at the Wednesday lunch, Dutch Ambassador in Nairobi Van den Assum disclosed one reason envoys respected Lone was that despite his position in ODM, they found him very candid and clearly concerned, not just about ODM, but also the country.

It got so bad at the end of January, Lone had to sneak out. A series of events may have made him an easy target of suspicion.

First, there was the powerful article he wrote in The Independent, which put the blame on the Government for the outrage. Subsequently, the international media turned to him for interviews.

When the international community chose to act, the man put in charge was Dr Kofi Annan, who was Lone’s boss at the UN. At the UN, he had also worked with Mrs Graca Machel, another member of the Annan team, and Lord Mark Malloch Brown, Britain’s Cabinet Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN. Old links

In Annan’s team was also former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, whom Lone says he has known since the 1970s. They were all instrumental in the peace talks.

In the 1970s when Lone was editor of The Sunday Post newspaper in Nairobi, Mkapa was the editor of Daily News in Tanzania. The two, according to Lone, got along well.

By the time Mr Mkapa became president, Lone had moved to the UN headquarters in New York. Lone says each time Mkapa attended UN’s meetings they spent hours chatting as friends.

In the 1990s, Mrs Machel had conducted a pioneering study on children in situations of armed conflict for the UN General Assembly. Lone was in the Advisory Board of the study group and says he got to know Machel well.

In Britain, a key voice on Kenya, another man with whom Lone had worked at the UN under Dr Annan had taken charge.

Mr Malloch-Brown had served as Anna’s chief of staff and eventually deputy secretary general at the UN.

Lone denies he communicated privately with any of them during the negotiations that led to the National Peace Accord.

"I only met them at official functions as a member of the Raila team," he says. A train of events in one week convinced him he had to leave the country.

On Monday, January 27, a diplomat warned Lone to take great care. On Tuesday and Thursday, MPs-elect Mugabe Were of Embakasi and Ainamoi’s David Kimutai Too were shot dead.

On Friday, Lone said, he was criticised at the Serena peace-talks by the PNU side.

"Even though I never got any death threats, I had been told by too many people to be careful," he said.

So Lone left for New York and returned a day after the peace accord was signed. That accord may have saved the country, but Lone has reservations about it.

"The Accord was indispensable in our case. But it should not be a model for other African countries. The notion that election fraud committed by the authorities should be followed by power sharing agreement will give the green light to dictators to fix elections," he said.

When he took up as ODM and later the PM’s spokesman, Lone knew one thing, "The most important aspect" of being a spokesman is credibility.

"If you don’t have credibility nobody will believe you and nobody will take you seriously even when you are speaking the truth," he added.

"The notion that I was the one who influenced the international community and the international media to intervene in ODM’s favour is laughable. The positions they took were determined by events on the ground entirely, and their new perceptions. "