First, I would like to extend a mkono wa heko to Raphael Tuju with the following words:
"Kudos for your new PPP"!
I think it is wonderful that
Raph Tuju has formed a new political party.
Like my friend Oduor Ongwen in Nairobi, I was hoping that it would be a NATIONAL party rather than a narrowly focused, ethnic party geared towards corralling LUOS in a certain political direction.
For that, the newly fangled People's Progressive Party of Kenya immediately suffers in comparison to FORD-Kenya, FORD-People, LDP, KANU, NAK and Safina which seek members and have a mandate that covers the whole of Kenya.
In scope, objectives and reach therefore, the PPP closest equivalent is the other regional party- the Shirikisho Party at the Coast.
Let me also take umbrage at Tuju’s assertions that Luos have hitherto been herded like sheep right, left and centre.
Is that, actually a fact?
A closer examination of the actual history of Nyanza province as a region and the Luo community as a whole punctures holes in these rather sweeping remarks.
From the 1950s, there was always a lot of political diversity in Luo politics, whether at its Nyanza base or elsewhere in Nakuru, Nairobi, Mombasa and elsewhere.
To give a few examples.
Let me kick off with examples from my own immediate family.
My late uncle (in fact strictly speaking I do not know whether it is accurate in Luo terms, to call him uncle- he was married to one of my father’s older sisters) Apollo Ohanga, as we all know, was a colonial ministerial appointee who was turfed from the helm of Nyanza politics in 1957 by the more radical Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. From different political schools, they were nevertheless very civil to each other. When I met Raila in Toronto in August 2000 he told me that his family and the Ohangas grew up side by side in Kisumu and he was an age-mate of my late cousin Veronica Nyamodi whose late husband, Dr. Nyamodi was a perennial rival of the pro-Odinga Oloo Aringo.
Another of my dad’s cousins was the late Agwingu Wuod Odhek better known as
Not THIS GEM Argwings-Kodhek, a Senior Research Fellow at the Nairobi based Tegemeo Institute.
Argwings K’Odhek for some arcane anglophilic assimilationist reason- even though the CMG appellation at the end of his name did not refer to some British royal honorary title, but rather his nickname- Chiedo More Gem. Agwingu came back from the UK as a lawyer and made his mark defending members of the Mau Mau in Nairobi. It was there he launched his national political career in the late 1950s with his own party, the Nairobi Congress Party. His rival in the same city turned out to be another young Luo, albeit of a more conservative pro-imperialist mien,
Tom Mboya who led the Nairobi Peoples Convention Party. These parties were regional only because when the British colonialists relented a bit in terms of the stringent conditions of the Emergency in 1956, they could only allow district based parties. And you will notice that at time, because of the genocidal and Gikuyuphobic policies of the same wakoloni, people from the Mount Kenya region were completely disenfranchised- in fact either living in home-guarded pro government villages if they were not languishing in the giant concentration camps and detention centres. Both men distinguished themselves as KENYAN politicians who were popular in cosmopolitan Nairobi despite their Luo ethnic origins. There was also a South Nyanza Congress Party. Again, the fact that they had different political stances did not preclude their participation in Kenyan politics.
Of course in the 1960s the biggest political rivalry involving Luo politicians had to do with
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya, both brilliant mobilizers and opinion leaders in their own right but veering towards opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.
Ironically it was NOT Jaramogi, but Mboya who sought to vanquish his political rival and remove Oginga Odinga from the national stage.
Sadly it was to be Mboya who would be felled by an assassin hired not by Jaramogi, but by Mboya’s mentor and godfather, Jomo Kenyatta. Another irony is that Mboya was preceded to the grave by his 1950s rival from Gem, Agwingu wuod Odhek Ja Malanga who died in a tragic road accident in early 1969 in a death that many Kenyans still hold suspicious.
At the time of his death Agwingu was the Gem MP, a constituency he served from 1963 to 1969. In fact if you look at Gem politicians you will notice considerable political diversity. Here is an excerpt of an article that was first published in the Kenya Times last year:
Gem is a constituency which in the past has been represented by such luminaries as the late CMG Argwings Kodhek (1963-1969), the late Wasonga Sijeyo (1969) Omollo Okero, Owitti Ongili, Otieno Ambala, Grace Ogot and Joe Donde.
Sijeyo, a former Kanu Senator for Nakuru District at independence won the Gem seat in a by election following the death of Argwings - Kodhek in a road accident in April 1969. But Sijeyo did not last for long. He was in the same year arrested along with other KPU MPs and detained for several years following the disturbances in Kisumu during which the late President Jomo Kenyatta’s motorcade was stoned by the radical KPU youths.
The by-election which followed was won by the current chairman of the Kenya Airways Mr. Isaac Omolo Okero, who retained his seat in the 1974 and 1979 general elections respectively. Okero lost the seat to the late Aggrey Otieno-Ambala in 1983. Ambala served only one term before he was trounced by the late Owiti Ongili who won the seat in 1988. After Owiti’s grisly murder in Siaya town, Mrs Grace Ogot who by then was a nominated Kanu MP resigned her parliamentary seat and successfully contested the by-election that followed.
Mrs Ogot who served in the Moi government as an assistant minister had her term disrupted and cut short following the clamour for multiparty democracy which saw politicians allied to the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his Ford – Kenya Party sweep the board (the late Oki Ooko Ombaka won the seat).
Even though sidelined by voters, Mrs Ogot left behind an enviable track record of development in Gem. She lost the seat to Ooko Ombaka in the first multiparty election of 1992.
Joe Donde’s performance in Parliament ( 1997-2002) was another remarkable achievement particularly his popular but contentious Donde Bill. In the year 1997 Donde retained the seat on a Ford Kenya ticket, but this time not under Jaramogi, but under the late Wamalwa Kijana. NDP failed to produce a credible candidate to challenge Donde.
The topsy turvy fortunes of politicians in Gem alone rubbish the notion that Luo people are like sheep. Okero and Mrs. Ogot were staunch pro KANU figures throughout their terms-and they also happen to be my relatives. Okero like Ombaka and Agwingu and
Prof. Ogot to whom the
former Gem MP is married are all members of the dominant Kagola clan to which I also belong- which demonstrates that the same clan can produce right wing neo-colonial apparatchiks (Okero, Ogot); social democratic lawyers (Ombaka) and unrepentant communists (Onyango Oloo).
There is remarkable political sophistication, internal dissent and diversity within the Kenyan Luo community whose members are to be found in each and every province in the country and therefore can not be seen as an unvariegated monolith with a monochromatic political vision.
The careers of two other Luo politicians- lawyer James Orengo and Prof. Anyang’ Nyongo (especially in the 1997-2002 parliament) also serve as a rebuff to Tuju’s contention that Luos are herded right, left and centre like sheep.
Many people have told me that Raphael Tuju owes his political existence NOT to his popularity at the Rarieda grass roots where he apparently lost hands down to a more popular opponent during the NARC nominations, but to his pocket book and the same Raila connections that he is today deriding. To put it bluntly, he was rigged in following a nod from the LDP top brass.
So perhaps he could be referring to his own recent and continuing history of being a beneficiary of this or that political god father.
Far from being an "independent" move, the launch by Raphael Tuju of his PPP is a nod to the reality that he has merely changed political masters. He now calls
Mwai Kibaki his "father". To me, any politician who still needs a "father" or a "mother" still has some growing up to do.
I am a bit disappointed and surprised actually that Raphael Tuju did not aim higher. He is someone who had a national appeal as one of the most recognized and photogenic broadcasters in decades past and a successful tycoon today. Why did he not attempt to cut a national swathe- rather than troop to Kisumu and surround himself with a bunch of Luo political has beens for a photo-op?
His move is a paradoxical one for someone so high profile in the NAK brains trust. One of the things the Kiraitus, Mugos, Kirwas, Mwakweres, Dzoros and Kibwanas have been berating Raila and the LDP with is their breakaway retention of party independence at a time when some forces in the ruling formation want NARC to morph from a 14 party coalition into a single entity registered as a political party. Why is Tuju splintering the NARC family further?
What is even more interesting is to see Tuju’s party being registered at a time when the registrar is threatening to strike off the Official Opposition- KANU itself from its own records. It comes a year after the same registrar refused to register the Mwananchi Party leading me to make charges of political favouritism.
My own preliminary analysis of the PPP is that it is actually not a party, but a Nyanza platform that the NAK government has launched to fight Raila Odinga in his so called home turf- even though the LDP linchpin is actually a Nairobi MP.
The PPP will fizzle and die, not because of any concerted hostility from the LDP, but more because it will be seen, rightly so as a conduit to divide and conquer the Luo community, an outfit that will be linked to tribal cabals in Central Kenya rather than with a genuine grass roots mobilization in Nyanza.
The timing of the PPP launch was simply ghastly- smack in the middle of the Referendum Campaign which leads me to question the sincerity of the move. Surely at a time when Kenyan politics is so charged, so polarized, this was hardly the time to spike passions even further by unleashing what is seen as a financially well-oiled conduit for the Yes campaign.
Raphael Tuju should go and visit the political graves of some living politicians like Odongo Omamo and some expired ones like Matthews Ogutu and contemplate why none of the millions of Kaliech were able to stave off ignominious defeat at the polls when the political tide started to turn.
Had I been in Tuju’s inner circle, I would have taken a different route. Since I am not in his inner circle I am not going to outline, leave alone detail that route.
You know what:
I have been wrong many times when it comes to this business of political forecasting, but I never steer away from the challenge of making bold pronouncements. It is quite likely that the PPP will be the next Big Thing in Kenya. I think not.
Tuju’s cardinal mistake, like Orengo’s in 2002 lies not so much in his political choices which he has a constitutional right to, but rather his total misreading of the popular mood. Sooner or later it will dawn on the Rarieda MP that it does not matter how many mobile clinics you have brought to how many villages- if you do not have your finger on the pulse of the national mood, you will be swept away by the people’s forward march.
Right now the mood in the country is one of anger, a bitter sense of betrayal; people are pissed off at Kibaki and those around him because Kibaki betrayed that tumultuous Unbwogable Spirit that swept him to power.
The NAK team, in their arrogance has plainly told the Kenyan people to their faces that they think the wananchi are stupid and will vote for anything the government asks them to vote for. Such arrogance and contempt for the intelligence of the people will be severely punished, first at the upcoming referendum and later during the 2007 elections.
Politicians from the Ford-Kenya and Ford-People fold can already feel this palpable seething resentment against the incumbent government and that is why you see them dithering between Yes and NO, hoping there is a Maybe slot on the same referendum ballot paper.
Kibaki, Michuki, Mwiraria, Kiraitu, Karume may try to play the Mount Kenya Tribal Card, but I would suggest that this is a very serious and expensive gamble with the lives of millions of Kenyans who live in the Central and Eastern province, the Rift Valley, Nairobi and indeed every major Kenyan urban centre. Why are the andu aitu tribalists setting up entire ethnic communities from the slopes of Mt Kenya to widespread national hatred?
After releasing the Mkabila Djinni from the bottle, will these NAK schemers put it back?
For Raphael Tuju, Morris Dzoro, Kivutha Kibwana, Kipruto Kirwa, Simeon Nyachae, Musikari Kombo, Moody Awori, Maalim Mohamed and Mukhisa Kituyi to then latch on to this parochial ethnic agenda of myopic domination is a testimony to their selfish callousness- to save their own ministerial backsides, they are prepared to help provoke open ethnic conflagration that may consume millions of Kenyans in an inferno worse than Rwanda.
Raphael Tuju like I said a long time ago, cut his own political throat a long time ago when he decided that in order for him to rise on the national political stage, he had to pull down the colossus from Langata and Bondo.
That was a rather daft political decision.