Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Caution to those ridiculing reformists!

By Wafula Buke

When Mr Musikari Kombo said Mr Raila Odinga was "one dangerous man" during the Kibaki Tena launch at Nyayo Stadium, he brought to the fore the issue of divergence in outlooks by those who get involved in politics to a new level.

I recalled my dealings with the two gentlemen in relatively similar situations at different times. In 1992 when I arrived in Bungoma from exile, in an effort to integrate me into local politics, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi took me to Wamalwa Kijana and Mr Musikari Kombo. "I think it will be necessary for us to move around with Buke. This is the only way we can ensure that the Government does not pounce on him," said Kituyi.

He argued that my association with them would draw the requisite solidarity in the event of an arrest.

Kombo quickly spoke: "Chairman, it is dangerous for us to move with him. Let him go back to his hiding place as we await the State’s reaction to his home coming." Wamalwa had to agree with Kombo, the richest man in their midst. Wamalwa added that it was not "safe" for them to tour the district with me.

Kituyi tried to convince them to no avail. Needless to say, I was confused. What kind of democrats were these who were not prepared to defend one of their own? Between the Government and I, who was dangerous?

The driving force behind our reformist political efforts had all along been hinged on the notion that the Government was endangering the social integrity of the nation.

My victimisation during the 1995 Fera crackdown led me to see the difference between Raila and Kombo. While in prison, Kombo and his regional colleagues made no efforts to secure my release or safety under the pretext that it was "dangerous" and "unsafe" to show solidarity with me.

Having failed to secure support from those she considered my allies, my wife sought the intervention of the man Kombo recently referred to as "one dangerous man". I had never talked to Raila or met him in person. My wife paid him a visit in his Kisumu office, where she poured her heart out about my frustrations and how I had been let me down by those I trusted.

Raila told her to wait for his call as he left for Nairobi. He called her the following day and told her that I would be released in three days. She did not believe him but true to his word I was released. That ended my 49 days ordeal in custody.

To this day, I have never known the magic he played to secure my release.

I am also reminded of what Titus Adongosi’s mother asked Raila when he visited her in the company of Mr Kenneth Matiba in 1997. "I am told you were with my son in prison, who killed my son?" she asked crying.

When Raila pledges to institute the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, he speaks for those who were determined enough to cut the Mugumo tree with a razor blade. Kombo and Mr Simeon Nyachae, on the other hand, are still prisoners of fear and incapable of seeing Kenya under Raila.

Raila’s footprints on the history of the struggle for a better Kenya should not be a basis for subjective accusations. As the establishment struggles to tag reformers with distasteful labels, other questions must be asked. Where were Kombo and Nyachae during the struggle to return this country back to multi-partism?

An American black political activist Mumia Jamal succinctly says: "When you don’t oppose a system, your silence becomes approval for it does nothing to interrupt the system." If these alliances of conservative individuals under a conservative Head of State can achieve the little or much we see today, how much more shall Kenyans achieve under a crusader for social change like Raila with his team of "dot coms"?

The stories of Kombo and Raila can be likened to those of the vulture and the leopard. He should be warned that in the absence of the leopard the vulture must learn the ways of the leopard or perish. To those who deride strugglers for social liberation, take heed from Mandela’s epigram:

"To overthrow oppression has been sanctioned by humanity and is the highest aspiration of very free man."



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