DEAR Prime Minister Odinga,
Please be advised that we take great exception to some of the words you have used in describing our leadership in Zimbabwe, when you know very well that some of those words you use could well be used to describe yourself and your new government.
We shall not repeat everything you have said otherwise we will not be able to make our point clear.
You recently called Zimbabwe Africa’s ‘eyesore’ and an example of ‘how not to do it’. You have also said that ‘disaster is looming in Zimbabwe’.
You made similar statements about Zimbabwe, before the current violence had started around the beginning of April 2008, as if you had some special powers of ‘reading the future’. Everything you predicted has happened in exactly the same way; yet there was no precedent to such election violence in Zimbabwe — at least of that nature.
Today Zimbabwe feels like Kenya in December 2007-January 2008, where bodies, for the first time, are burnt and body parts cut off innocent civilians in the name of politics. We had never seen this kind of violence and level of killing in Zimbabwe and we condemn it unreservedly.
We challenge you to read reports of violence documented on Zimbabwe and you will agree with us that this type of violence is a first in Zimbabwe’s post-independence history.
You have been recently installed as a Prime Minister after almost 2, 500 post-election deaths, violent deaths, in your own country where we saw some of the worst brutality on the African continent in this day and age. Three hundred of your own people died pre-election (before December 2007) — a number that the current violence in Zimbabwe could never match; yet you have the audacity to call Zimbabwe an 'eyesore'.
Mr Odinga, we know that two wrongs don’t make a right, so Zimbabwe is not exonerated from criticism and it should be criticized. But who criticizes Zimbabwe and using what words? The words you have used recently Sir, are not akin to a new leader and whose own country is still reeling from one of the worst violent episodes on the continent.
We are getting increasing concerned and frustrated that you are not using diplomatic channels in criticising Zimbabwe. You will soon be mirroring the utterances of the erstwhile enemies of Zimbabwe, who have closed all diplomatic channels and are now trying to use 'force' to bring change in the couintry. You might as well be representing those countries, and their interests in Zimbabwe, not Kenya.
We do not exactly know what ‘triggered you off’ as a new Prime Minister to dedicate your respectable offices to criticizing Zimbabwe in this manner, when you have the advantage of your 'good offices' to do so. We were hoping that if you had any concerns, as a ‘head of state’ you had the opportunity to visit President Mugabe and speak to him directly. But you chose to use different fora; just like those people who have traditionally been at loggerheads with Zimbabwe.
In this regard, with all due respect, we think this is cowardly. As a ‘head of state’ why you preferred to use the World Economic Forum in Pretoria and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington as platforms for firing ‘insults’ at Zimbabwe, rather than engage the leadership to find common solutions, is not clear. Your silence on Darfur and your own problems at home on these same fora is very concerning.
When you said you are ‘enemy No 1’ in Zimbabwe, you were wrong Mr Odinga. Zimbabwe does not hate you at all. You are not the enemy. Why are you identifying yourself with the enemies of Zimbabwe? Why should Zimbabwe hate you? Or, to rephrase, do you want Zimbabwe to hate you? As a news organsiation, we are concerned by your statements, but hate is a far-fetched word. Afterall, you are an African brother.
We sincerely hope that you do not view your leadership as ‘a way of doing it’ in Africa. Your leadership as Prime Minister is yet to be tested, yet you have the audacity to speak ill about Zimbabwe's leadership.
As we speak ethnic tension in your country is showing no sign of abating and suspicion runs high in your cabinet. We do not know if President Mwai Kibaki shares the same sentiments as you on Zimbabwe. We have only heard your lone voice from your bloated cabinet.
The just-ended by-elections in your country have highlighted continued tensions between the coalition partners and the persistence of ethnic politics.
The coalition that holds your government together is still to be tested. We urge you not to be over-excited by power and start criticizing what you term 'old African leaders'.
We know about the disgruntlement that exists in your party today, and your desire to forgive those who have perpetrated violence in the post-election period which has been criticised by the Roman Catholic prelate Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi.
Many of your allies “have been disheartened by the success of Mr Kibaki’s party – and his Kikuyu ethnic group – in dominating a government conceived as a union of equals,�� according to the Financial Times.
Long-standing ethnic grievances over the unequal distribution of land, wealth and power in Kenya will not be resolved by a GNU, and we hope you know that. This, we know, is what triggered the post-election violence, although others have said it was your desire to attain power.
We hope you will not get so overzealous in your new job as to create new enemies for Kenya from old friends. You still have a long way to go before the next election (in 2012). There is still a lot of work to do on constitutional reform, on truth, justice and reconciliation, and on the ever contentious issue of land. These are very delicate areas and before you start presenting yourself as an effective leader, you have to resolve these problems first.
KENYA, NOT SO LONG AGO
We do not know who you represent in your views Mr Odinga, given that you seem to be distracting world attention from Kenya.
It would suffice to remind people of what happened to kenya in January this year, to contextulise our concern. Some quotations from the media not so long ago would help:
“An estimated 30 Kenyans of the Kikuyu ethnic group – many of them children – were burned alive after taking shelter from a mob in a church in the western town of Eldoret,�� CS Monitor, Jan 3, 2008.
“Ethnic violence continued to spread throughout Kenya on Sunday, with at least 7 people burned to death in their homes in a tourist town and more than 100 people killed in the past four days.�� Associated Press Janury 27, 2008.
In one incident, witnesses said at least 7 people and possibly as many as 14 had been burned to death after they were trapped inside their house. Associated Press January 27, 2008.
“On Saturday, hundreds of men prowled a section of the city with iron bars, poisoned swords, clubs, knives and crude circumcision tools. Boys carried gladiator-style shields and women strutted around with sharpened sticks. The police were nowhere to be found. Even the locals were shocked. ‘I've never seen anything like this,’ said David Macharia, a bus driver.�� Associated Press Janury 27, 2008.
This will suffice for now.
300 people died in pre-election violence in Kenya and 2,500 died post election violence. This number, by any measure, dwarfs the 65-70 deaths recorded by the MDC (Tsvangirai) in unclear circumstances, yet you call Zimbabwe an eyesore, without trying to engage the Zimbabwean government as a PM.
We feel that Mr Odinga you still have to prove yourself as a leader and therefore are unqualified to make informed judgments about other leaders. We do not know what advises your judgment.
We urge you to stop the globe-trotting and focus on troubles in Kenya and engage African (Zimbabwean) leaders. We also urge you to let Mr Kibaki sometimes comment on Zimbabwe. He is the president, afterall. We do not even know if he shares the same sentiments as you over Zimbabwe.
We also urge you to reduce the size of your cabinet. We know that cabinet posts in Kenya attract a monthly salary of nearly (US) $18,000 (£9,000). Assistant ministers earn a bit less - just over $15,000. (BBC)
We also know that there are “40 cabinet ministers and 52 assistant ministers, not far short of half the total number of MPs�� in your country.
“Ministers and their assistants also get allowances - that adds another $210,000 a month to the bill.
“To add insult to injury, the Kenyan exchequer only claws back a little in tax: only around $3,000 of the ministers' income is treated as taxable income.��
So we know that you spend at least US$1.5million a month on salaries alone — the Kenyan taxpayers’ money. What exactly are you managing in that country Mr Odinga? And couldn’t you use that money for land redistribution and dealing with ethnic divisions in your country? Do you think this is sustainable in the long run?
We have problems in Zimbabwe. We have to deal with them; but we do not need insults from you Mr Odinga. We need help. We did not insult your country or your leadership when innocent people died in Kenya in the name of politics.
We expect you, the new generation of leaders, to be exemplary, not derogatory and divisive.
What lessons are you teaching future generations of leaders?
Is this the best you can come up with in your first months of leadership?
Do you have to exploit every forum to chastise those who make mistakes and castigate your own continent?
The US$13m a year you are about top spend on your cabinet, according to the BBC, is enough to build around 50 new schools in Kenya. So is this not an ‘eyesore’ on the continent? Is this a ‘way of doing it’?
Having 40 permanent secretaries and their staff, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars more to the bill, is not a ‘way of doing it’, neither is it exemplary leadership on a continent that is trying to lift itself from years of foreign domination and extraction of resources.
Mr Odinga, we wonder why you have already been allocated 45 security staff and a fleet of cars to travel in, when you say the situation in Kenya is improving.
We also wonder why “cabinet ministers and their deputies get a minimum of five security personnel and a couple of shiny new cars.��
In a country with an annual per capita income of less than US$400, these statistics are shocking. They are irresponsible. They are an antithesis to development and an embarrassment to the continent, and definitely an ‘eyesore’ and a ‘way of not doing it’.
THE ZIMBABWEAN PROBLEM
Sometimes, Mr Odinga, we wonder if you really know the Zimbabwean problem — how it started and how long it took the government to get majority rule. We wonder if you have read the history of our relationship with the ‘wild wild West’. We wonder if you know how many people perished in colonial Rhodesian and how many people sacrificed their lives.
We also wonder if you know how many black Zimbabweans people fought in World War II and were only given 15 Shillings as compensation on return; and how your own people (the Kenyans) contributed to the British Empire in Burma and SE Asia and went back home to fight the same people for freedom. Obviously history is not important to you, Mr Odinga. We believe the world starts in 2008 for you?
We do not say seek retribution; but we say, ‘contextualize problems’ before you are given a ‘High Chair’ at some forum or institute. Have pride in resolving your continent’s problems; not castigating those who came before you. Even Catholicism was proved fallible, remember papal infallibility?
Why can’t Zimbabwe make mistakes without attracting your un-useful comments? Why can’t you take a trip to Zimbabwe and not to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. if you feel Zimbabwe needs urgent attention? Why didn’t you detour to Zimbabwe on your way to, or from Pretoria, where you were attending the World Economic Forum?
Why do you always have to score points by mentioning Zimbabwe — and not providing credible solutions — than by talking about Kenya? Is there not enough trouble in Kenya?
We urge you Mr Odinga, to diplomatically engage the Zimbabwean government.
People are dying in the country and your words are not very helpful to a situation that is out of hand. We all exercised caution when Kenya was burning. It still is burning today, and we are still exercising caution. We are not getting over-excited. That’s what leaders do — find strtategic ways to resolve crises, not attack other leaders.
We do not remember hearing President Mugabe refusing to meet you or criticizing you or Mr Kibaki. We also do not remember you offering to help Zimbabwe. We remember your hugs with opposition leaders soon after your ‘inauguration’ and hugs at the World Economic Forum with Tendai Biti and Jendayi Frazer. Those are more memorable than anything useful you have said or done on ‘really’ resolving the Zimbabwean crisis.
We urge you to clean house before you make any further embarrassing statements about Zimbabwe in your first few months of leadership; and we also urge you to seek diplomatic ways of engaging the Zimbabwean government.
While at it, please also ask the Africa Commission and its splinter organisations and their spokespersons to lead a diplomatic offensive on Zimbabwe rather than speak from London.
Also please ask Mr Tony Blair to encourage the ‘African Elders’ he currently leads, to use the same methods he used in a more difficult situation in Northern Ireland, in resolving the Zimbabwean crisis.
Zimbabweans are dying from violence and soberness and diplomacy by leadership is needed; not these divisive by-partisan statements likely to divide a continent that was moving towards a Pan-African integration.
Wed 18 June 2008
http://www.talkzimbabwe.com/news/117/AR … 06-18.html