Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Veterans of Kenyan Struggle Meet Raila Odinga
An Attempt at Instant Recall by Onyango Oloo
July 26th is a public holiday in Cuba, celebrating the day, almost sixty years ago that Fidel Castro and his comrades made a valiant attempt to remove a fascist dictatorship in their island republic.
July 26, 2010 was a special day for Kenyan former political prisoners, ex-detainees, survivors and victims of police brutality, special branch torture, state terror and neo-colonialism fascist intimidation.
This was the day when about forty of us converged in the palatial digs of another former Kenyan political prisoner and ex-exile.
This was the day we paid a courtesy call to the Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga, the Prime Minister of Kenya at his Karen home.
As some of the readers/viewers/browsers/surfers/clickers of this blog may already know by now, the Co-Principal in the Kenyan Grand Coalition Government has been convalescing following a recent surgery.
The meeting was arranged within a very short time with former exile and present PM advisor Miguna Miguna being in the thick of things in the background.
We were informed over the weekend and were told to converge outside the Nakumatt in Karen by 10 am on that Monday.
Seeing the comrades brought back a flood of memories: Kamonye Manje and Maina Kiongo- among the first Mwakenya suspects to be railroaded to prison; Silvanus Oduor, a veteran of the Naivasha Penitentiary, courtesy of his role in the 1971 coup attempt against Jomo Kenyatta; Chitechi Osundwa, one of the most hard working cadres of the December Twelve Movement which had its hey day in the late seventies and early eighties; Israel Agina, who was jailed at the age of eighteen way back in 1969; Wafula Buke, a militant student leader from the late 1980s along with Dr. Njenga Kaberere and Miguna Miguna; Kangethe Mungai who along with Tirop ara Kitur and the late Karimi Nduthu received very long prison terms for attempting a guerrilla war against the Moi regime in 1986; Florence Nyaguthie who was accused of having a seditious publication in 1990; the two comrades from KPF that we met in Dar es Salaam in late 1988 on their way to military training in Libya; the courageous journalist Paul Amina; the patriotic businessman David Owach; Njuguna Mutahi who was to later found and coordinate the People Against Torture group; Captain Tirop from the Kenya Army tortured at the tail end of the Moi regime; several comrades from the Bungoma based February Eighteenth Revolutionary Army (FERA) who were horribly abused and brutalized by state goons in the mid 1990s; seventies era university radicals like Rumba Kinuthia; some stalwarts from the KPU period; Ongele Pala who along with Oginga Ogego (not present) Onyango Oloo, Muga K'Olale (present) and others spent years together at Kamiti Maximum Prison between 1982 and 1988; Wachira Waheire, a Nyayo House Survivor who is now the National Convener of the National Victims Network; Kimunya Kamana, another victim of state repression who was thrown in to jail because of falling out with the top KANU hierarchy in Nakuru headed by the late unlamented Kariuki Chotara rather than any active involvement in the Mwakenya proscribed organization and others that I was meeting for the first time.
Many of us who first embarked on the struggle in our late teens or early twenties were now spotting sprinkles of salt on our chins and heads, that is if were not displaying expanding bald spots. One could still detect the fierce fire in the eyes and determination in our hearts, but there was no doubt that dictatorship and the economic travails of neo-colonialism had taken a very heavy toll on most of us- weighed down by the lumpenizing effects of being on the margins of society, eking out a difficult existence while latter day johnny come latelys abrogated themselves the roles of the so called "true reformers" and saints of the "second liberation movement".
I was very proud of all of us. We caucused before we had our session with the Prime Minister, deciding to be strategic and focused rather than portraying ourselves as a motley crew of impoverished desperadoes croaking for handouts. We emphasized that the 2008 Agenda Four of the Grand Coalition Government had ALWAYS been our AGENDA ONE for decades; we stressed that at the end of the day our struggles had ultimately crystallized into a struggle for a new national democratic constitutional dispensation and that is why we were all enthusiastically slated to vote an enthusiastic YES! come the August 4th Referendum; some of us felt that dictator Moi belonged in Kamiti rather on the noisy rostrums of the NO campaign; we all agreed with Lands Minister James Orengo who spoke later, that Kenyans should neither forgive or forget Moi's atrocities until he was brought to account for his crimes against the Kenyan people and offer a public apology to the entire nation. Prime Minister Raila Odinga was understandably more conciliatory and forgiving.
At the end of the day, Raila Odinga did NOT need any prodding, lobbying or canvassing from us. After all, he himself had been detained thrice and tried once for treason; his own father Jaramogi had been through hell and as his wife Ida Odinga recounted, his immediate family had been through unspeakable trauma throughout his travails. We applauded when he denounced Amos Wako's rash decision to appeal the recent court victory for 21 Nyayo Torture Chambers survivors; he emphasized the need to document our experiences and saw the August 4th Referendum date as rendezvous with our destiny, perhaps ushering a completely brand new progressive phase of our history.
There is more that I can say about this, but since I am composing this directly onto my blog online in real time, sans spell check, revisions and rewrites, I will save on the shillings I am being charged by this downtown Nairobi cyber cafe and curtail the tale right about now....