MR ODINGA : Call it a day and move on

MR ODINGA : Call it a day and move on

Kenya has been touted as E. Africa’s most robust democracy. I think not. Judging by the general election held on August 9, and three weeks later there is no declared winner is a recipe for disaster that may plunge Kenya, once again in havoc and mayhem as it did in 2007 when 2,000 people lost their lives and 600,000 were displaced when Odinga refused to concede.

Part of the problem is Raila Odinga, the eternal candidate. At 77 and having run for the presidency five times and lost, you would think he would be planning to retire and enjoy his Golden Years, but it is not so. Until he becomes President, Kenya’s former Prime Minister will not be satisfied. He has run for the presidency five times, and been rejected by Kenyans yet he will not throw in the towel. That is not what a true Statesman does.

Raila Odinga

The political crown has eluded Raila Odinga just as it eluded his father, Jaramogi Raila Odinga, Kenya’s first Vice President after independence.

It seems, in all seriousness that Odinga’s reason for running and his insatiable appetite for State House is that virus ripe on the African continent: ”IT IS MY TIME TO EAT.” And in Odinga’s sad scenario he is itching to be Kenya’s first Luo president.

Sadly, Kenyan politics are steeped in tribalism, as seen when each candidate would speak in vernacular whenever they would go to their place of birth and strongholds to campaign. Those were tribal dog whistles at best.

There is also the dynastic sense of entitlement. Uhuru Kenyatta is the son of Kenya’s first president after independence. Odinga is the son of the first Vice President, and feels entitled to follow in the Old Man’s footsteps. But Kenya is not a monarchy but a republic, and this foolish sense of ascension should be dismissed without ceremony.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Raila Odinga

In 2008 Odinga narrowly lost to Mwai Kibaki (corrected from previously mentioned as Kenyatta), and did not go to court. To make peace they made him Prime Minister in a coalition government, and he accepted. This should question his honor and integrity. Assuming power at all costs is not the stuff that Statesmen are made of.

True Odinga has played a major role in Kenyan politics. But the Kenyan electorate have the last say. If you try five times and you don’t succeed you should get the message that your time has come and gone.

One of Odinga’s claim to fame is that he was the longest serving political prisoner in the history of Kenya, having been imprisoned without trial from 1982 to 1988, and then again in 1989 to 1991. But surely this is not qualification for the presidency. In 1982 he was imprisoned for allegedly planning a coup, not conduct that elevates you to the highest office of the land.

There is no evidence that the election held on August 9 was rigged. Odinga’s protestations are un-worthy of a man of his stature who has thus far served his country well. Fortunately the transparency of thee count, and the faith in Kenya’s judiciary has so far limited demonstrations and riots. But political apathy may also be helping to douse inflamed passions.

Raila Ondinga during his recent presidential campaigns

Uhuru Kenyatta is the third Kenyan president in a row to respect constitutional term limits. A rarity in Africa. None of Kenya’s neighbors can match its history of holding competitive elections. But the fact that every election must be decided by the Supreme Court throws a wrench in otherwise peaceful and vibrant political duels.

William Ruto’s rise, never mind many past alleged cases of malfeasance which were never prosecuted, is music to the average Kenyan. From chicken seller to the presidency says to the man on the street that they will have a spokesman in the State House. His rise also destroys the myth of dynastic rule in Kenya. By presenting himself as the voice of the poor, he has transcended ethnicity to become the first leading Kenyan politician to win support based more on class than tribe.

Ruto’s fall will come about if he fails to deal with the run-away corruption that his predecessor failed to address. It is a crime that is bleeding the Kenyan economy and retarding developmental projects. Let’s see if the self-styled Hustler can rise to the occassion.

1 comment
  • First and foremost my friend and if I may H.E. Willis Shalita, I would like to commend you for ever being a good scribe. Secondly and most importantly, please note that the 2007 Kenyan elections were won by Honorable (late) Mwai Kibaki and not Uhuru Kenyatta. As you rightly put it, Kenya has term limits unlike most African countries. It is a democracy and anyone has a right to appeal. Currently those in disagreement are following due process as the system allows.