Thursday, October 31, 2013


There is no doubt that Raila Omolo Odinga will be on the Kenya presidential ballot in the 2017. What is in doubt is whether or not his political vehicle - the ODM - will survive its prevailing internal squabbles and emerge strong enough to take up the Jubilee Coalition of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto four years from now. This doubt is informed by historical facts that have characterised Raila's political career over the years.

Since he left the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD-KENYA) in a huff after a leadership squabble with the late Kijana Wamalwa in 1994, Raila has commanded three political parties of his own -  the National Development Party (NDP), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) - and not one succeeded in propelling him to the presidency.

In 2001 he disbanded the NDP to team up with President Daniel Arap Moi's KANU in a deal that temporarily torpedoed his political ambitions. In 2002 he aligned LDP with the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) in an arrangement that allowed Mwai Kibaki to win. In 2007, he failed to win the presidency altogether. He faced a similar fate in 2012 when he linked ODM to the Coalition of Reforms and Democracy (CORD) in a contest against the Jubilee coalition.

Now, as he prepares to take his fourth stab at the highest office in the land, Raila faces multiple problems that would most likely, once again, derail his plans to be commander-in-chief. Firstly, CORD exists only on paper. Its main partner, the Wiper Democratic Movement of Kalonzo Musyoka, is so battered that it cannot even win a parliamentary seat in its own backyard of Ukambani. This was demonstrated recently when Kalembe Ndile failed to win the Makueni seat in a by-election. Kalembe's main opponent was not even a member of a political party: he was an independent candidate.

With the party leader Musyoka now politically vanquished, the WIPER cannot, and should not, be expected to bring any significant number of elective seats to the CORD in the next elections. On the other hand, FORD-KENYA of Moses Wetangula, another principal partner in CORD, has completely failed to make an impact in western Kenya. In fact, the coming senatorial by-election could as well see him washed out of the political landscape altogether.

Secondly, ODM, the flagship of CORD is hopelessly disjointed. Nyanza, which Raila has used for years as his fort is no longer a homogeneous constituency. People who once followed Raila blindly are today independent-thinking voters who disagree, digress and openly rebel against Odingaism. There are no more block votes in Nyanza for Raila to wish for.

When Raila's father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga fell out with President Jomo Kenyatta in the 1960s, Nyanza suffered isolation for almost three decades until Kibaki came to its rescue in 2002. With Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto likely to be in power for the next ten years, Nyanza people have only two options: stay in the cold for another decade, or do everything possible to avoid another round of insulation. That is why pragmatic Nyanza leaders are choosing the second option and warming up to the Jubilee leadership.

And it' not just Nyanza where ODM is in trouble. There is a dizzying decline of popularity in all its other strongholds. The party has suffered major setbacks in the Rift Valley where its point men, Henry Kosgei and Franklin Bett, have reportedly resigned from their party positions. Western Kenya big guns like Musalia Mudavadi, Eugene Wamalwa and Cyrus Jirongo are no longer endeared to Raila and are teetering towards the government side. Jubilee has overran the region and both Uhuru and Ruto are frequent visitors there. At the Coast, the party's once broad support is shaky. Almost all the elected leaders there have publicly pledged support to the Jubilee government.

The other perceived ODM vote basket has been Nairobi. It is no longer a secret that Governor Evans Kidero who was elected on an ODM ticket is dancing with the enemy. He has built a strong bond with Uhuru and avoided Raila's company on two very important trips to the United States. Independent-minded and with a groundswell of popularity among city denizens, Kidero is perhaps the only person now who can either save Raila in the city or wipe out his support.

ODM's failure to make a mark in Parliament and in the Senate is another factor that is ruining the game for Raila's party. With all the three of its national leaders - Raila, Musyoka and Wetangula - out in the cold, the party's parliamentary leadership is weak, rudderless and confused. Its performance has been dismal, bordering on negligence. This charade of confusion is likely to get worse as ODM MPs "cross" the floor in anticipation of appointments for their kins-people to key government and parastatal positions. That is why I believe it is a matter of time before ODM becomes completely dysfunctional in the legislature.

In the meantime, party legislators cannot even agree on whether or not to support or oppose the deferral proposal relating to the ICC trials; or even how to vote on legislations in the August House.

And then there is the important matter of succession. Younger members of the party have not shied away from declaring their intention to oust the old guard ahead of the 2017 elections. This group of restless, eager and rebellious politicians is spoiling for a fight although the old guard is fighting back. So a battle of wits and ideas is looming.

It is expected that the National Governing Council - the second top-most body - will meet next February to deliberate on the matter. To me, that will be the defining moment. I expect a vacuum-cleaner approach in which the entire leadership - with the exception of Raila who is the de facto owner of the party - will be swept out. Mangled and thunderstruck, ODM would splinter into factions and self-destruct.

At that time, the national icon will be 73 years old and undoubtedly taking his last chance at the presidency. If he fails again, the scion of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga would have to exit. In the absence of a successor with a national appeal, ODM would fizzle away, leaving the field open for Ruto to take over from Uhuru in 2022. This is the gruesome reality.

And that is my say.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


When the Daily Nation began serialising Raila Odinga's autobiography, The Flame of Freedom, I received the following post on my Facebook Timeline from a Moses Musamali, (and I re-produce it here verbatim without any changes:

"So Kenyan politicians should write a book in their retirement? These books they write are just propaganda, they write to tell us nothing but insult their enemies more. These books have no impacts like books mandela wrote. Miguna miguna, Joe Khamisi, Simeon Nyachae. And Many others wrote but non of them has any impact. They are just giving us their autobiography how they got their wealth."

I was tempted to respond immediately to thank Musamali for his comment and to inform him that my biography, Dash Before Dusk, would be out early in 2014 and that he should get a copy when it comes out, his views notwithstanding. After a brief thought I decided not to reply directly but to use this space to address the whole issue of books and why more Kenyans should put their thoughts on paper.

I am glad I didn't reply then because a few days ago I saw another posting from a Kenyan resident in the United States complaining about how Kenyans were denied entry into a venue in Minnesota, USA, where Raila was scheduled to launch his book. What caught my attention was what followed: the writer informed the world that the book was selling at 40 US dollars and already 100 books had been sold, meaning according to him, that Raila had pocketed 4,000 US dollars, an equivalent of 348,000 Kenya shillings at that one venue alone.

Firstly, I want to inform both complainants that writing a book, any book, is a time-consuming, tedious affair that requires many working days and many research hours that would be difficult to quantify in monetary terms. Secondly, there are expenses involved. There is an assistant and an editor to be paid. In the case of self-published works, the publisher must be paid; a budget must be set aside for the launch, promotion and marketing; and finally distributors and retailers have to get their commissions. At the end of the day, a writer ends up with a royalty of not more than 20 percent, if he is lucky. If the books fails to meet the basic threshold of sales, the writer loses out. So, it is wrong to assume that writers make a lot of money; just as it is misguided to think books don't have an impact. Books educate, enlighten and preserve history. Researchers use books for reference purposes; books also entertain. I am glad to say my own book, The Politics of Betrayal, is being quoted by scholars and is useful to students.

I want to tell Musamali that books such as The Flame of Freedom contribute greatly to the country's history. Raila is a very important personality whose role in the shaping of the Kenyan nation cannot be underestimated. People have said a lot about him, Now we want him to tell us with his own voice about his background, his political experiences, his tribulations and his struggles. I hope this will not be his last book because we are already looking forward to his memoir at the end of his journey.

I have not yet read the book because it has not reached where I am, but when it finally gets here, I will buy it just like I bought Nyachae's Miguna's, Babafemi's, Njenga Karume's and others.

Whether we like or not, books must be written for the benefit of future generations. Listen to what Raila told Linus Kaikai of NTV during a one-to-one interview: "The truth must come out...People should speak openly and frankly to chronicle what has happened so that it remains for prosperity."

It is just unfortunate that many Kenyans with a lot to say go to their graves with valuable knowledge and information instead of sharing them with others. That is why I am a consummate proponent of the written word and that is why I want Musamali and others who think like him to read, and if possible, to put to pen their worldly experiences for all of us to read.

And that is my say.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Some people say politics and sex are inseparable bedfellows. I agree. If there are two passions that have rocked governments, dispatched politicians into oblivion, and ruined marital relationships, they are politics and sex; in other words, it is raw power and what occurs under the sheets that collude to destroy careers.

Sex has seen the downfall of many politicians all over the world for as long as I have lived. From the very first political sex scandal I can remember, that of the British War Minister John Profumo way back in 1963, to the latest escapades of former US Representative Anthony Weiner, sex continues to play havoc to humanity.

It was sex that almost brought down US President Bill Clinton; it was sex that vanquished Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; it was sex that rattled South African Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwean Morgan Tsvangirai; and it is sex that will most likely destroy the careers of some Kenyan politicians. The list of sex offenders in the political world gets longer every year as politicians get exceedingly careless and as young, beautiful women make themselves available for the good time.

Blending politics with sex is like sprinkling fuel on embers. The mixture bursts into a full-blown fire: attracts attention, raises moral questions; triggers public scrutiny and, when it graduates into a scandal, collapses careers and destroys families.

What Kenyans have been treated to in the past week - unsavoury images of two people we all may be knowing - has already passed the stage of raising moral questions and triggering public scrutiny. What Kenyans are waiting for now is to see how far careers and family lives would be destroyed. But before we get there some questions have to be answered: Are those pictures real? Or, were they "photo-shopped" as some people say? If they are real, who took them, and who posted them on the social media? And most importantly, did the two individuals know they were being photographed? And did they give consent? Only those affected can answer such questions. So far, we haven't heard much.

It appears our country's moral fibre is in grave danger of erosion. A video clip I saw recently of young people - some looking as young as 15 - dancing publicly in broad day light and in the most erotic manner, shocked me to the bone, more so because all those youngsters have parents or guardians somewhere who could stumble on the video the way I did.

But that is only a tip of the iceberg. How about the quick-spreading craze of swingers' clubs in our towns where lovers swap partners for liberal sex sessions? How about the so-called fashion trends where women walk on the streets half-naked without care? Or, the growing pornographic video industry - bestiality and all - in Nairobi and in the tourist towns of Mombasa and Malindi?

Traditional norms are being replaced by free lifestyles copied from Hollywood movies and Mexican soap operas.

Unfortunately, the people who are supposed to mentor the youth and show them the good way are themselves openly deviant and immorally corrupt. And it is not just politicians I am talking about. How about men and women of cloth? How about other religious clerics?These are the people who stand in churches every Sunday and in Mosques every Friday preaching the virtues of righteousness.These people are supposed to be role models.

I am not saying that leaders are not human and should not behave humanly. I am only saying that public display of immorality has no place in the Kenyan way of life.

Everyone agrees that the social media is the best thing that has happened to this world this century. It permits on-time delivery of information and pictures; opens up communication to a much wider audience and shrinks the world into a village. But as convenient and as innovative as they may be, the social media are also empowering users to be able to copy, re-work, share and re-tweet messages many times over, circulating them indiscriminately without regard to age or sensibilities of the bigger audience out there.

The proliferation of Internet powered laptops and hand-held devices means even minors can gain access to pornographic material without the knowledge of their parents. I am convinced  tens of thousands of under-aged children saw the distasteful pictures of their leaders splashed all over the social media these past few days.

We expect leaders to take the moral high ground and provide not only good leadership but moral uprightness.

Perhaps we should tighten our ethics laws further so that our leaders can be held to account at a higher threshold than currently provided. Electing leaders who are debauched, indecorous and dramatically showy is dangerous for the well-being of our society.

And that is my say.