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.