Sunday, July 29, 2007
Makau Mutua--crazily hued palette!!!
By Sarah Elderkin
A few weeks ago, another Sunday newspaper carried an article by Makau Mutua, whose byline also occasionally appears in this newspaper.
The point of Mr Mutua’s article was to paint Raila Odinga in the worst colours Mr Mutua could possibly mix on his crazily hued palette.
It was clearly unimportant how accurate the resulting likeness was. I suppose that’s what they mean by modern art.
Mr Mutua, a professor at a minor US university and chairman of the non-governmental organisation Kenya Human Rights Commission (not to be confused with the body established by an Act of Parliament, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights), has a penchant for this sort of thing.
Just about every article he writes is an unbridled attack in the most immoderate language on the target of the day most frequently Mr Odinga.
Mr Mutua actually has nothing positive to say about anyone or anything. That is his privilege, of course, but one does wonder what he thinks he is contributing to the national effort.
This is in marked contrast to the contribution made by some of the people on whom he launches his attacks, particularly Odinga and his late father, Saratoga Oginga Odinga, and then by extension the whole Luo community, whose members Mr Mutua insultingly calls psychotic because they support Raila.
Does Mr Mutua perhaps think that mass support is only laudable if the recipient belongs to a different tribe? I didn’t notice him calling Luos psychotic when they voted 98 per cent for Mwai Kibaki in 2002.
Alternatively, perhaps Mr Mutua thinks it is a sin to be popular (something he is unlikely ever to be able to test personally).
Tellingly, when accusing Raila of tribalism, he mentioned in his article nothing at all about Raila’s popularity in cosmopolitan Nairobi.
That would have destroyed his spurious arguments. Likewise, he steered well clear of Raila’s repeatedly demonstrated popularity countrywide an unstoppable flood of support. Definitely mustn’t mention that.
Mr Mutua also tried to dismiss as a "purely tribal" affair the 2005 referendum on the Draft Constitution, where the ‘No’ vote was led by Odinga.
Mr Mutua presumably referred to Kikuyus versus the rest. It is a fact that the ‘Yes’ vote was 43 per cent of the total. It is also a fact that Kikuyus make up 22 per cent of Kenya’s population.
This means that, if every Kikuyu in the land voted, and voted ‘Yes’ both of which are entirely unlikely – they would still only make up about half the ‘Yes’ vote.
The other half came from non-Kikuyus. And if many Kikuyus did band together to support Mr Kibaki in the referendum vote, are they psychotic too? Is everyone psychotic except Makau Mutua?
Let’s stop allowing people like him to promote tribalism by perpetrating this kind of propaganda and disinformation. As for "all" Mr Odinga’s "close confidantes (sic) and supporters" being "his kinsmen", as Mr Mutua stated well, it’s news to some of us that we are related to Odinga.
It’s news that the Kikuyu and Embu not to mention Luo members of his strategic team are family members. It’s also fascinating to hear that his Luhya driver, Kikuyu private secretary, Kamba office functionary and others are likewise kin.
Perhaps we should mention those who really are related his Luhya sonin-law and Kikuyu daughter-in-law. If Mr Odinga were a tribalist, could he have countenanced giving his approval to these matches?
And we shouldn’t forget the supporters who spoke at his presidential caucus people who hailed from all walks of life and every corner of the country, and not a single Luo among them.
The people who support Odinga are there not because he is the Luo Raila Odinga but because of what the man stands for and believes in.
And d’you know, I’m getting tired of this constant need to refute malicious and unfounded charges of tribalism against Odinga – tired of seeing people set up straw men in order to pretend that these straw men are Raila, simply for the pleasure of knocking them down.
In doing this, they completely ignore the evidence of history. So why don’t we take a look at history, tribalism and the Odingas?
It is well documented that Raila’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, refused the offer of the prime ministership, made to him by the colonial governor just before Independence, telling the governor he must release Kenyatta "and let him lead the people of this country". Jaramogi made this personal sacrifice for the unity of the nation.
That was in 1961. More than 40 years later, in 2002, Raila Odinga similarly stood back, putting aside any personal ambition he might have had, and said "Kibaki tosha!".
He knew that, if he did not make this sacrifice, the country would end up with the same election result as in 1992 and 1997: a divided opposition and an easy victory for Kanu. None of the 2002 presidential contenders in the opposition had been willing to step down. There was an argument for or against each person.
The Kikuyus and Kalenjins couldn’t have the post because they’d had it before. The Luhyas should have it because they were the next largest tribe, Charity because she was a woman, Kalonzo to represent youth, Saitoti because he had more years of experience as vice-president than Kibaki, Nyachae because he came from a small tribe, Raila because the Luos had borne the brunt of marginalisation and suffering.
Most of the arguments were based on tribal considerations. Raila knew it couldn’t work and he stepped outside the ring to ensure what he believed was a non-tribal result for everyone.
Who dares to call him a tribalist? In 1997, Raila Odinga, this man with his "lust for power" and determination to be president "at all costs", had set out, along with Paul Muite, James Orengo and Richard Leakey, to find a compromise candidate.
At meetings in Dr Leakey’s Hurlingham office, it was agreed that Dr Leakey would approach Willy Mutunga and Kivutha Kibwana (both turned down the offer on grounds of not wishing to undermine Charity Ngilu), while Mr Odinga would approach Wangari Maathai.
Wangari accepted but others ruled out her candidature. When this plan failed, Raila stated his willingness to step down in favour of Charity, to unite his own National Development Party and Charity’s Social Democratic Party. The suggestion was that Charity would run on an NDP ticket.
Charity did not agree to this and the initiative came to naught. Only after all other avenues had been exhausted, then, did Mr Odinga finally decide to offer his candidacy on an NDP ticket.
Does this sound like the story of a tribalist who will stop at nothing to get to State House? Half-a-century earlier, Jaramogi had set the non-tribal example his son would follow when he sent thousands of students to foreign countries for education.
Were they Luos? Yes, some of them were. They included Omolo Okero, Odongo Omamo, Odero Jowi and SM Otieno.
Were there equally people from other tribes? Yes, there were. They included Joe Karanja, now deceased but later to become vice president; Henry Wariithi, later MP for Mukurweini; Kiongo Ndile, later also an MP; Francis Masakhalia, later a cabinet minister; Makokha Nabwera, brother to later minister Burudi; Kipng’eno arap Ng’eny, also subsequently a cabinet minister, and Moses arap Keino, now deceased but at one time the parliamentary Speaker.
In addition, there were later deputy secretary Dr Watindi, medic Dr Charles Otara, trade unionist Juma Boy and Public Service Commission chairman Eng Sharawe. Was this assistance to such a wide variety of people the behaviour of a tribalist? Later, in 1957, Jaramogi became one of the African Elected Members (AEMs) of the ruling Legislative Council (LegCo).
The AEMs formed a de facto opposition to the colonial government. T he following year, Jaramogi, still a staunch and faithful defender of the jailed Kenyatta, electrified Legco when he referred to Kenyatta as still the leader of the African people.
It was a time when people hardly dared mention Kenyatta’s name. Jaramogi’s remarks came during debate on a motion brought by Tom Mboya, during which Kenyatta and his fellow detainees at Lokitaung had been referred to by others in the House as nothing more than common criminals.
Jaramogi was incensed. He said, "These people, before they were arrested, they were the political leaders of the Africans in this country, and the Africans respected them as their political leaders – and even at this very moment, in the heart of hearts of Africans, they are still the political leaders."
There was mayhem in the House, with shouts of "Order! Order!" all round. Jaramogi was not deterred. He went on to refer to "mistakes" made by the government, which were "hurting the feelings of the Africans" – but he got no further. Members roared and the Speaker, the gloriously named Sir Ferdinand Cavendish-Bentinck, hastily interposed with, "I think the time has come for the interruption of business", moving speedily on to the infinitely preferable and less contentious ministerial statement on the Dairy Industry Bill Select Committee, Additional Members.
Jaramogi was not cowed. When debate on ‘Convicts at Lokitaung Prison and Elsewhere’ resumed the following day, he was ready.
He called to mind the treatment of former Cypriot leader Archbishop Makarios, who had been imprisoned by the British at State Lodge, Seychelles, from where there were daily public reports on his health and activities.
Jaramogi said, "The same thing with Mr Jomo Kenyatta should exactly be done, because anything ....." Jaramogi could not continue. He was again drowned out by cries of "Order! Order!" around the House.
Not all the African members present shared Jaramogi’s nationalism and passionate support for Kenyatta’s leadership. One, Mr Bernard Mate, the member for Central Province North, objected to what Jaramogi had said, asserting when he stood to speak that, "We in Central Province today are the political leaders in Central Province." In later years, after Independence, when Jaramogi split from Kenyatta to form the Kenya People’s Union, the disagreement between the two men had been mainly over land.
Jaramogi defended the poor and landless against those who were using their positions to acquire more land and wealth for themselves. And who were the landless? It wasn’t the Luos, who had suffered very little land expropriation by the colonials.
It was the people of Central Province whose lands had been taken, and they were the people Jaramogi was defending.
Jaramogi demonstrated his nationalism on countless occasions and suffered for his principles. Raila has done no less, taking up Jaramogi’s baton and devoting nearly 40 years of his life to the fight for democracy and justice, enduring along the way persecution, torture, detention and exile, and all the untold personal suffering associated with the day-today and years-long terror of those conditions. Raila Odinga is a man unafraid to make personal changes and take risks for the betterment of all.
He is Member of Parliament for a cosmopolitan constituency far from his homeland, when others would be far too cowardly to take such a risk, and he has shown his ability to take an ‘unknown’ party and make it a force to be reckoned with nationwide.
He is the perfect example of a detribalised politician who has also succeeded in retaining the support of his own community. Tribalism? Bah, humbug!
Our learned friend Mr Makau Mutua, safely seated for years now in his New York office, and whose personal contribution to the struggle for the moment escapes me, has everything to learn about what it is to be a nationalist in Kenya.
Still, as they say, there’s no time to start like the present.
The writer is a freelance journalist