Monday, August 20, 2012



Civil Society activists at work

By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
August 14, 2012

Forty days ago, I questioned the wisdom of the Civil Society in this column when a section of them went to meet Prime Minister, Raila Odinga with outrageous demands that Odinga sacks, Internal Security Acting Permanent Secretary for disobeying a court ruling, suspend Attorney General Githu Muigai for consistently misadvising the government and sack Police Commissioner Mathews Iteere for failing to eradicate Al Shabbab attacks in Kenya.

Today, I revisit the Civil Society on a different matter altogether. I do so on the basis of a case currently going on in the High Court filed by the Civil Society challenging the eligibility of William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta’s participation at the next general elections while at the same time the two are facing trial at The Hague based ICC for crimes against humanity early next year.

As the weeks have passed by, this same case seems to have taken a life of its own.

Now the same Civil Society accusers have chosen to include Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka in the list of those who should not seek the presidency on the basis that the three new additions also have skeletons in their closets. They are saying that Raila Odinga should be barred from contesting the presidency because he took part in the 1982 coupe against President Moi’s repressive regime. For Kalonzo, they want the son of Muingi’s presidential dreams scattered for his involvement in the sale of the Somali Embassy in Nairobi at a time when there was no government in Somalia. For Musalia Mudavadi, the Civil Society has revisited the 1990s Golden Berg citing Musalia’s involvement.

These three accusations are in order however, whether they can stand the scrutiny of a courtroom battle is yet to be seen.

For Kalonzo to be accused of participating in the sale of a Somali Embassy in Nairobi, one will have to prove a specific role he played. For example, who did he conspire with to dispose of the property? Did he or his close relatives stand to gain materially through that sale? What exactly did he do to facilitate the sale?
Did he appear in any court of law and charged with fraudulence connected with the loss of the Somali embassy? If these salient questions cannot be adequately answered by the accusers, his case will hit a brick wall.

The Civil Society is accusing Musalia Mudavadi of involvement in the 1990s Golden Berg scam. This matter has been in court more times than any of us can remember. And every time Mudavadi’s name has been linked to Kamlesh Pattni’s scam, the courts have always cleared him. The latest such clearance came from Justice Bosire who in his ruling after a lengthy inquiry so soon after NARC took power, found Mudavadi not guilty of any charges.

The question to ask is this: how can we make the Golden Berg scam stick on Mudavadi when all these years he has been found innocent? What more new evidence does the Civil Society have to revive the case against Mudavadi? If this is not a witch-hunt or vendetta then what is it?

Raila Odinga is being accused of taking part in a coup attempt of 1982 that sought to overthrow the kleptocratic and repressive regime of Daniel arap Moi. The Civil Society has turned 360 degrees on this one. Now they are accusing the very man who tried to overthrow a regime the Civil Society shouted horse about; the regime they variously described as evil, torturous and the epitome of dictatorship and corruption.

In accusing Raila Odinga of trying to overthrow Moi’s regime, these SC groups have forgotten the Nyayo torture chambers, Nyati House and the many Kenyans that lost their lives and limbs because of the same regime. They are forgetting that hundreds of Kenyans have been awarded millions of tax payer’s funds as compensation for wrongful detention and torture during the life of the same regime. They have forgotten that to date, Kenyans still remember the Saba-Saba Day even as Charles Rubia and Kenneth Matiba still nurse their wounds following their detention under that regime.

How can the Civil Society be so callous and forgetful? Have they forgotten the humiliation of mothers of political prisoners at Uhuru Park where the late Wangari Maathai was clobbered to near death? Have they forgotten Rev Timothy Njoya’s merciless beatings on the streets of Nairobi near Parliament?
Have they forgotten when Richard Leakey was publicly humiliated by being caned in Rift Valley in broad day light?

If Wanyiri Kihoro, Ngugi WaThiongo, Raila Odinga, Maina Kinyati, Gitobu Imanyara, Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, Otieno Mak'Onyango, Koigi Wamwere and many others put their lives on the line for the freedom of this country, can we today, the latter day Civil Society rights groups turn around and condemn them? How many of us did not secretly celebrate the coupe of 1982? Why did we celebrate? Did we celebrate for freedom or what? Weren’t we all tired of the regime and felt trapped?

Today the Civil Society is at crossroads. It is embarrassingly confused. Today we have two groups of Civil Society. One group is busy defending the Executive against the Judiciary. Suddenly a section of the Civil Society would want to stop the Judiciary from exercising its independence in passing judgments against the Executive’s aggressions against the new constitution while the other group is busy taking the Executive to the cleaners using the new constitution.

It is these contradictions in the Civil Society movement that make some of us believe that both types are mere guns for higher to sing the tunes of their pay masters. They have no interest of this country at heart. Theirs is politics of the stomach.