Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Is This Raila Phobia Justified?

September 10
is this raila phobia justified

By Ababu Namwamba

Chief Nazi and Hitler propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, famously quipped that when a lie is repeated often enough, it transforms into spellbinding “truth”. And fittingly, it was Hitler’s nemesis, Sir Winston Churchill, who amplified the danger in lies, cautioning that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.

A potent cocktail of lies, rumor, innuendo and hearsay has intoxicated the Kenyan political scene into a vortex of phobias and myths, which are slowly ingraining themselves into our national psyche. This dangerous trend has chillingly become a well-choreographed orchestra of prejudice seemingly aimed at locking some individuals and communities outside the national leadership circuit.

Raila Amolo Odinga is easily the top victim of phobia mongers. The indefatigable Langata MP has been transformed into some kind of a national mystic mill, around which all sorts of myths are spurn, with Railaphobs and Railamanics as the protagonists. The myths and phobias are as ridiculous as they are mundane. Sample these:

Raila cannot be elected President: This is perhaps the most ludicrous of all the myths spurn around the man whose followers affectionately call Agwambo. The myth is rooted in ethno-cultural prejudice, which ignores Raila’s cosmopolitan constituency and history of valor.

And so Railaphobs will argue that “Kenyans are not ready for a Luo president”, because “Luos are uncircumcised…are arrogant…and violent”. Yet Luos serve superbly in myriad elective positions, including the crucial trade union movement. And just what has the matter above our neck got to do with the things below our belt? If it is so important, why don’t we undress all candidates just to be sure? How do you label a whole community so sweepingly? Which Kenyan community has homogeneous traits? That the Bukusu are faithful to traditional circumcision does not make this practice a “Luhya” custom. If 80 per cent of all armed thugs are from some community, should it be labeled “thuggish”? And is there anything like a “communal presidency”?

We should logically judge candidates on their merit. Whether their communities are rainmakers or night runners is irrelevant!

Raila is power hungry: Whenever Raila says a thing about leadership, his detractors brand him power hungry. When Kibaki craves power (he took a shot at the presidency thrice, and demanded to be the NARC sole candidate) that is called democracy. When it is the scion of Jaramogi, it is hunger for power! Everyone else can crave power, but not Agwambo. Raila is only expected to support others, but never to seek the support of others. So he is only Njamba, the brave warrior, when he says Kibaki Tosha, but a Kihii, the uncircumcised one, when he says no to deception and ethnic bigotry. And by the way, I thought if you have no interest in power you should become a Monk or something!

Raila is selfish and inconsistent: They say he is a child of privilege obsessed with self interest. That he skips from party to party. But they choose not to acknowledge how Raila identifies with the struggles of ordinary Kenyans, and will not mention the history of betrayal the house of Jaramogi has suffered, conveniently forgetting Jaramogi’s sacrifice for Jomo Kenyatta in 1960 and Raila’s for Kibaki in 2002. Neither will they admit that Raila is unrivalled as a true warrior for democracy. They refuse to see how Raila has remained consistent in his relentless pursuit of democracy. His reward is the distinction of being the most detained Kenyan in the history of our land. Critics also will not admit the truth that Raila has merely used various political parties as different vehicles to a single destination: a better governed Kenya. Every smart traveler knows that you do not use a boat to fly through the clouds or a lorry to sail over rough seas or a chopper to race on rugged terrain.

Raila is radical and disloyal: His strength of character is mistaken for intransigence. His charisma is confused for a domineering demeanor. His experience from battling in the frontline trenches for democracy is misconstrued to mean a radical streak. But worst of all, he is not expected to do or say what everyone else does or say. So, for instance, when other ODM-K candidates explain why they best deserve the party presidential ticket, Raila is not supposed to market his cutting edge. When he does, he is admonished for rocking the boat!

For a man who, like his venerated father, has dedicated his life to the selfless service of the motherland, Raila deserves better than these absurd myths and phobias. The least Kenyans can do in appreciation is to accord him equal opportunity as everyone else. This country must learn to celebrate and honour its heroes in their lifetime.


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