Saturday, August 31, 2013

Oduol vs. Oduor in Gubernatorial Face Off in Siaya?

A Digital Essay by Onyango Oloo in Nairobi

Now that red dirt has settled on the fresh judicial  grave that has all but buried  

ex-Governor Rasanga Amoth’s short lived political career, the people of Siaya are bracing for the next gladiatorial contest in that history drenched county in the western part of Kenya.

Ironically, Rasanga himself is quite bullish about his chances for retaining the governorship, confidently citing the ease with which CORD retained the late Mutula Kilonzo’s Senatorial seat as proof positive that ODM/CORD would maintain the stranglehold the coalition has on Siaya County politics. ODM  branch officials “unanimously” endorsed Rasanga for the seat. 

“If I am not popular in Siaya, then why did 80,254 people vote for me?” asks Rasanga rhetorically, presumably  suffering from a bout of  self-induced amnesia which allows him to forget that since the High Court threw out his “victory” he can hardly use the same flawed numbers to bolster his case.

One of my good friends based in Kisumu, Chris Owala, was  quoted in a section  of the press as saying that ODM would retain the Siaya governorship because “ the people of Nyanza and  especially Siaya where Raila Odinga hails from will not betray him. Coupled with sympathies after the Supreme Court verdict…no candidate will ever defeat the ODM candidate in Siaya.”

Siaya is the ancestral home of the  

father of the 44th President of Kenya.

Bondo, Sakwa in Siaya is the home of legendary Pan Africanist  

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his equally famous son,  

Raila Odinga.   

Ramogi Achieng Oneko, one of the pioneers of Kenyan independence and part of the Kapenguria Six, hailed from Tienga, Uyoma in Siaya.   

Ugenya, also in Siaya County is where you will trace the origins of one of the stalwarts of the Kenyan reform movement,   

James Orengo

Gem, which neighbours Ugenya gave birth to Argwings Kodhek, the first Kenyan to be called to the bar in the United Kingdom who later made his name as a courageous lawyer defending the Mau Mau freedom fighters in the fifties before cutting a swathe on the Kenyan landscape as a politician in Nairobi and later in his native Gem.  While still serving as Kenya's Foreign Affairs minister, Argwings Kodhek died 

in a mysterious car accident along the road which bears his name to this day. 

His cousin,  

Professor Bethwel Ogot, is recognized as among Kenya’s pioneering nationalist historians of the sixties. Their uncle Odera Akang’o, vilified in some circles as a vicious colonial collaborator, left a lasting legacy in Gem as an educator and modernizer.   

Grace Onyango was the first woman to be elected an MP in Kenya. She hails from Sakwa and is married in Gem. 

Her namesake,  

Grace Ogot, is an icon in her own right as a novelist and later in life, also an elected member of parliament. She was born in Asembo and also married in Gem to the well known historian and academic with whom she shares a surname. 

In the world of music, Siaya County has produced such giants like   

Gabriel Omollo, 

Okatch Biggy, 

Dr. Collela Mazee, 

Ochieng’ Kabaselleh, 

Omondi Tony and

Musa Juma to name a handful. 

For many decades, what is now Siaya County used to boast (not without a little justification) that this region had more PhDs per capita than any other part of Kenya! The illustrious, erudite, eloquent Shakespeare and Martin Luther King quoting law professor cum politician and former anti-corruption czar   

Dr. Patrick Lumumba Otieno, better known as “PLO” who was born in Pumwani, Nairobi but cites Imbo, Siaya County as his ancestral home, is just one sample.

Of course the flip side of this rosy picture is the abysmal levels of poverty and underdevelopment in all parts of Siaya. The  county is still suffering from the debilitating aftershocks of the HIV/AIDS pandemic which took such a toll on the able bodied, productive and some of best educated brains in this county. Women are still are wallowing on the margins of the periphery of national development initiatives and youth unemployment scales 70%.

During the 2013 General Elections, newcomer  

William Oduol almost caused a major upset when he was almost elected the first Governor of Siaya County, mounting a feisty, well organized campaign against the ODM candidate after the shambolic primaries of the same party which many observers of Siaya politics insist Oduol won hands down. Oduol supporters also aver that it was William Oduol who was supposed to have been declared the winner in the ultimate contest on March 4, 2013. The shock and uproar when Rasanga Amoth who was NOT even a candidate in the party primaries was announced as the Governor Elect was to lead to a crisis of legitimacy for  Rasanga who was to be dogged with persistent accusations that he was an electoral thief and usurper.

Judge Aggrey Muchelule’s verdict invalidating the March 4 gubernatorial polls in Siaya seems to vindicate the above view.

As the triumphant petitioner, it is hardly a surprise that William Oduol has promptly flung his hat in the ring in the by-election to identify a new Governor for Siaya County.

What is not clear is if the  

West Con Africa Chief Executive Officer will be confronted by his nemesis Rasanga Amoth.

As early as the day of the verdict on the Oduol petition, speculation and rumours were swirling in the Kenyan capital that ODM, the most dominant party in the former Nyanza Province had quicklygone back to the drawing board opting to look for a fresh gladiator to take on William Oduol.

Among the names loudly whispered as possible candidates and rivals in the upcoming vuta-ni-kuvute in Siaya County are Elisha Odhiambo, who unsuccessfully vied for the Gem seat; former police spokesman Charles OwinoWahongo, former Kenya High Commissioner to the United States Elkanah Odembo and possibly Malik Obama, President Obama’s older brother, George Okedo and former aspirant Otieno Okanja.

One of the latest to join the fray is  

Oduor Ong’wen one of Kenya’s foremost development experts.  Ong’wen is former head honcho at the NGO Council and currently Country Representative for Southern and East Africa Trade and Information Negotiations Institute (SEATINI).

On the afternoon of Friday, August 30, 2013, I ran into my old friend Ong’wen at the  

G-Pot Restaurant located just off Chaka Place, near Yaya Centre in the Kilimani suburb of Nairobi where he confirmed directly to yours truly that Ong’wen had formally made up his mind on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 to throw his hat in the ring.

I have known Oduor Ong’wen since 1981 when I was a first year Bachelor of Arts student at the main campus of the University of Nairobi. Ong’wen was a year ahead, doing Sciences. He was to later emerge as the Secretary General of  SONU in the Mwandawiro Mghanga administration, arguably the most radical of all the student regime in a university which had maintained a militant tradition which had seen the campus closed down a record 18 times between 1970 and 1983 mostly because of the uncompromising stance of the students who were quick to spill to the streets in demonstrations whether  denouncing the brutal state linked slayings of leaders like JM Kariuki and Robert Ouko, the one party dictatorship, the assassination of Guyanese  progressive guru Dr. Walter Rodney  or the endemic corruption in all aspects of Kenyan life. This militant tradition is the nursery and crucible which nurtured future politicians like Senators Orengo, Kajwang’ and Wetangula (who was actually quite conservative as an undergraduate) Kabando wa Kabando, Ababu Namwamba, Mwandawiro Mghanga, John Munuve and Mukhisa Kituyi who served as MPs at one time or another. Even the current Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga came from that radical history, being among the lecturers abducted and detained by the Moi-KANU regime in June 1982.

Oduor Ong’wen was among the 70 students along with Mwandawiro, Ochuodho, Paddy Onyango, Kibisu Kabatesi, Richard Onyonka, David Murathe, Adongo Ogony, Evans Vitisia, Ken Sagala, the Aseka brothers from Kenyatta University who found some of us at the Industrial Remand Home in the aftermath of the abortive 1982 coup.

Later in 1986, Ong’wen was among the hundreds of peaceful, democracy seeking social justice campaigners who were rounded up, beaten up and tortured at the notorious Nyayo basement chambers before being dragged to kangaroo courts on trumped up charges and sentenced to long prison terms as part of the infamous Mwakenya crackdown.

Upon release from prison, Ong’wen became one of the leading members of the Me Katilili and UWAKE underground left wing movements.

In the early 1990s when countrywide mass mobilization forced the Moi-KANU dictatorship to restore legal political pluralism, Ong’wen was once again very active in the original Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) and later on its offshoot, FORD-Kenya. It is around this time that Ong’wen became a close aide and confidant of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a situation which obtains to the present day. Ong’wen is not only a founding member of the Orange Democratic Movement, but one of ODM’s chief ideologues and strategists, having recently served as a key member of the Raila 2012 Presidential Secretariat.

William Oduol has his work cut out for him. 

Oduor Ong’wen is a seasoned and formidable opponent.Definitely NOT a pushover for anybody. Of course he still has to secure the  ODM nomination before he faces Oduol and any other candidate. That is assuming Oduor Ongwen will seek the seat on an ODM ticket.

Nevertheless, and with all due respect to my long time comrade and friend Ong’wen,  I firmly believe that Siaya Governor by election race is for Oduol to LOSE because all the positive momentum is with  William Oduol. He is the clear cut front runner and favourite. He created a groundswell of popular and solid support in all the Siaya County parliamentary areas of Rarieda, Bondo, Gem, Alego, Ugunja and Ugenya.  A big chunk of the politically conscious youth in Siaya is rooting for William Oduol.  Despite his impeccable political and civil society credentials, Oduor Ong’wen may suffer a huge backlash simply because of his intricate bonds with ODM, a party which was resented in Siaya County in March 2013 on the grounds that they were foisting unpopular candidates on the electorate under the spurious guise of the discredited “Six Piece” strategy of persuading an ODM bloc when it came to choosing county representative, women representative, member of parliament, senator and governor.

Still ODM remains THE party of choice in most of Luo Nyanza.

Bearing in mind that despite running on a National Agenda  party ticket, Oduol shares the same ODM roots with Oduor.

Despite propaganda that attempted unsuccessfully to tar and mar the reputation of Oduol as a sellout collaborator with the rival Jubilee Coalition, it is clear that what propelled William Oduol to the fore despite going against the pro-Odinga tide by  going toe to toe with Raila’s older brother was Oduol’s freshness and connections with the ordinary people of Siaya County. He managed to stir in the people of Siaya a new dose in self confidence and hope that the seemingly intractable socio-economic malaise afflicting the county could be eradicated.

Going in,  with the official  IEBC declaration that the by-election of the Siaya Governor will be held on October 17, 2013, William Oduol is the presumptive Governor Elect even with the considerable electoral muscle of ODM massively in place.

The 2013 elections proved to be a watershed in the tumultuous history of the young east African nation of Kenya.  Under the aegis of the constitution passed in 2010, Kenyans elected ward representatives, senators, members of the national assembly, governors and the fourth president.

While most of the media attention and public debates swirled around whether it was going to be Jubilee’s flag bearer Uhuru Kenyatta or  CORD’s candidate Raila Odinga who would wrest the right to snore in the State House, other deeper, more profound seismic shifts were occurring at  the county levels.

The emergence of the devolved structures of government served as a tapestry in reshaping Kenyan politics at the local and national levels. In the spirit of the 2010 constitution, power was shifting from the centre to the regional and other lower county levels. Hopefully if the spirit and letter of the country’s supreme document was implemented faithfully, the democracy dividend would begin paying off.

At the same time, these changes were taking place in a context where yesterday’s ethnic and regional chieftains hankered to be the harbingers of a tomorrow they could barely fathom, let alone embrace.

Nowhere was this more vividly illustrated than in the so called “Luo Nyanza” the counties now baptized Homa Bay, Kisumu,Migori and Siaya. 

For the first time, the grass roots electorate in what is called “Luo Nyanza” defied the edicts from the ODM top brass to elect representatives of their choice rather than handpicked cronies from Orange House, the headquarters of the Orange Democratic Movement.

The passage of the Constitution in 2010 and the onset of the 2013 campaign opened up vistas for young blood, new blood, female voices, and professional people to explore their political options. Some wanted to take on, and sweep away the doddering incumbents, that they considered incompetent dead wood. Others salivated over the positions for governor, senator, women’s rep and ward representatives.

To the considerable dismay and bemusement of these fresh faced aspirations, many of the corrupt MPs who had utterly failed to serve their respective constituents were now gearing to “promote” themselves to “senior” slots like governor and senator.

Otieno Kajwang’, James Orengo, Anyang’ Nyong’o and Oburu Oginga all announced that they wanted to be senators in their respective counties of Homa Bay, Siaya and Kisumu. With the exception of James Orengo, whose reform credentials and democratic track record was still intact, all the others suffered an immediate backlash because most of them were deemed to have failed as MPs.

In the case of Dr. Oburu Oginga in particular, it was a double whammy. In the first place, he was seen to have underperformed as MP for Bondo. And he was seen to be hanging on the coat tails of his more popular and effective younger brother and people in the community felt he wanted to ride on the wave that was propelling Raila to seek, for the third time, the highest seat in the land.

James Orengo refused to acquiesce to any direct or indirect hints that he should cede the senatorial seat to the Prime Minister’s older brother. Instead he quickly forged alliances with other younger upstarts seeking elective posts in the inaugural Siaya County government.

One of the people he hooked up with was William Oduol, a forty something chartered accountant who had made his mark in the corporate world, serving in managerial stints at Coca Cola, Microsoft and Safaricom and endearing himself to his rural constituents with some forays in philanthropic charity projects. One of the allies of the Orengo/Oduol Siaya County team was none other than Jakoyo Midiwo. This was significant because Jakoyo is a first cousin to both Raila and Oburu apart from being the powerful parliamentary whip of ODM. It was even whispered that Ida herself, the spouse of the PM was aghast at the prospect of Oburu embarrassing the family in a faceoff with the flamboyant, patriotic and intelligent outgoing Lands Minister.

Dr. Oburu Oginga was soon forced to eat humble pie when he announced that he was withdrawing from the senatorial contest and in fact teaming up with his  would be adversary, James Orengo.

Instead of being a Shakespearean all’s well that ends well, it emerged into an almost dystopic anti-climax when Jakoyo Midiwo (the outgoing MP for Gem) brokered an elite pact that would see Oburu stepping up his bid a notch higher to go for the Governor’s position.

By this point in time, William Oduol had emerged as the clear front runner in the Siaya gubernatorial contest.
But to his shock, his former allies James Orengo and Jakoyo Midiwo were now urging, cajoling and even threatening him to vacate the Governor slot for Oburu Oginga who is massively unpopular in Siaya County, despite being a sibling of the popular ODM head honcho.

With Oduol standing his ground while welcoming the candidature of Oburu to vie for the governorship, matters took a nasty turn. 

From being a darling of the ODM headquarters because of his generous party contributions, Oduol was transformed over night into a pariah.

He was now being openly referred to as a “TNA mole” sent by Uhuru Kenyatta to undermine Raila Odinga in Siaya.  There were reports that Oduol, was in fact a “first cousin” of Onyango Oloo, the Secretary General of the TNA party. These were both outright falsehoods.

On January 3, William Oduol had to issue a press statement, carried by the Star newspaper that he was a TNA mole. He was reacting to a statement by outgoing MPs Jakoyo Midiwo, Nicholas Gumbo, Edward Yinda and James Orengo who had declared at a rally in Bondo that William Oduol was a spy working at the behest of Uhuru Kenyatta’s party which in the context of Nyanza politics was insinuating that he was a “traitor” working for the downfall of Raila Odinga.

There was even another allegation that William Oduol shared the same grandfather with Onyango Oloo, the TNA Secretary General.

Despite these and other smear campaigns, William Oduol remained focused on his campaign, determined to secure the ODM nomination for the Siaya Governor slot.

As the January 17th date for party primaries loomed closer, there were growing credible fears that the ODM higher ups were determined to lock out Oduol to stave off embarrassment for Oburu. The former MP for Alego, Sammy Weya was later to admit publicly at a meeting in the Kenyatta International Conference in early February 2013 that Jakoyo Midiwo had visited Weya at his Siaya home in November 2012 and vowed that there would be no ODM primaries in Nyanza. Other sources vouched for this, saying that all the incumbent MPs from Luo Nyanza had each contributed ranging in the millions to Orange House. In return they were assured by the party top brass that no one would contest against them.

Concerned democrats and civil society activists outside ODM but active in Siaya County became increasingly alarmed at the prospects of rigging out the popular gubernatorial aspirant.

They reacted in three ways.

The first group, who saw themselves as loyal to ODM and supporters of Raila Odinga started appealing within ODM for free and fair elections and promised to remain vigilant to see Oduol crowned Governor Aspirant for the party.

The second group, most of them younger activists in the universities and civil society organizations, took the initiative to form an online platform, the Siaya County Forum whose primary objective was to build support for William Oduol and expose the machinations of Oburu and other ODM heavyweights to impose candidates in Siaya County- including parliamentary and other aspirants. It soon became a very vibrant forum which was joined by supporters of all the governor aspirants including Oburu, Okinda, Ochanda and Oduol. The last three participated directly in the online exchanges.

The third group consisted of leading members of other smaller parties who soon got in direct contact with William Oduol, plotting a fall back plan in the eventuality of ODM rigging. There were two tracks to these suggestions. Leading members of one of these smaller parties advised William Oduol NOT to defect, as this would give his ODM detractors the justification of calling him a TNA mole. SDP and William Oduol agreed that Oduol would soldier on until the end of the primaries on the 17th as both were confident that Oduol would carry the day by a landslide.  A Plan B would only arise in a case of blatant and open rigging.

January 17th, 2013 began ominously. In a conversation with this writer at 13:45 William Oduol revealed that the nomination exercise was yet to begin, adding to his fears of potential foul play but repeating his reassurance that the feedback from the grass roots all over Siaya remained pretty good.

It was a day of tenterhooks and raw suspense as the results were stalled for hours, late into the night. The returning officer disappeared. It later emerged that the officer had been kidnapped. Later on, in a surreal twist, another person  purporting to be  real returning officer appeared, not in Siaya Town, the county headquarters housing the tallying centre but in Bondo, Oburu’s home town and declared that Oburu, who had earlier been announced by Ramogi FM and other media outlets to have lost, the  alleged winner of the gubernatorial nominations!

Panic and pandemonium broke loose all over Siaya County starting with the tallying centre. It took restraint from Oduol and his supporters to prevent a riot.

But William Oduol and his team had been methodical in their campaign.

They swiftly released their own figures that they had patiently compiled all over Siaya County.

I reproduce these below:

Constituency     ODUOL OBURU

1. Bondo              9,345     12,201

2. Ugenya            16,600   3,923

3. Alego/Usonga              28,964   3,934

4. Ugunja             13,666   4,812

5. Gem 18,817   10,508

6. Rarieda            12,600   16,100

Total      99,992   51,478

Despite these claims there was massive silence from the ODM headquarters.

Away from the public limelight, there was a barrage of calls to Orange House and to Raila Odinga specifically, protesting what was deemed to be a blatant electoral theft. William Oduol called this writer at 6:30 am on January 18th when he was in Narok en route to Nairobi. He informed the writer that the Prime Minister himself had summoned him to come for a reconciliation meeting between Oduol and Oburu scheduled to take place later the same day at Orange House to seek a way forward.

As matters turned out, Oduol was kept waiting in Nairobi the whole day only to be called in close to 7 pm.

Even then there was no announcement.

It was not until the second half of the next day, January 19, 2013 that Franklin Bett announced the shocking ruling:

Both Oduol and Oburu had been locked out!

In their stead, ODM had in its wisdom picked Rasanga Amoth, who was NOT EVEN ON THE BALLOT as its nominee for Governor.

On being locked out, William Oduol set out activating his Plan B. 

Against expectations, he ignored the overtures from the smaller parties and other so called “CORDED” outfits like Wiper, FORD Kenya and the like. 

Instead through one of his associates, Mrs. Concelia Ondiek, the widow of the former Ugenya MP Archbishop Ondiek, Oduol entered into negotiations with a little known party, the National Agenda Party whose offices were in an obscure section of Nairobi’s teeming River Road neighbourhood-quite a contrast to the upscale digs of the major mainstream parties like ODM. In a jiffy, he had secured a direct nomination which set the stage of his announcement that he had quit Raila Odinga’s party but was still in gubernatorial race in Siaya. This news flash sent tremor ripples within the ranks of the ODM hierarchy in Siaya County who had assumed they had effectively silenced and neutralized Oduol.

At a fundraising cocktail party held at the Taifa Hall at the KICC (not to be confused for a similarly named auditorium at the University of Nairobi) on February 7th, 2013 and attended by among other people, TWO siblings of his main rival Rasanga Amoth, one of Oduol’s aides, Sammy Weya, a former MP for Alego revealed that the powers that be in ODM had resolved months ago not to hold primaries in Luo Nyanza but instead impose the outgoing incumbents on the electorate. The event was punctuated with fiery speeches by a mostly young crowd (the median age was late twenties, early thirties) who said that it was time the people of Siaya  fought to reclaim the democratic space that they had fought so valiantly for over the last two or three decades.

When he came to the podium to deliver his speech, an obviously energized Oduol picked up on this theme, laying out his vision for development, poverty eradication, social justice and community empowerment. He spoke of the need to achieve food sovereignty, stem the tide of insecurity, and foreground the aspirations of the youth, most of who were wallowing in unemployment. He made a point of pledging his loyalty and commitment towards supporting the presidential bid of ODM leader Raila Odinga and outlining his history of financial contributions to the ODM party.  Whether this was a tactical move on his part to avoid being tagged with the “TNA mole” label or whether it was a sincere statement of his political and ideological affiliations at the national level appeared blurry.

At any rate the fundraiser was a success raising money from all the six constituencies which make up Siaya County.

In the remaining weeks leading up to the March 4 elections, his star continued to rise. An IPSOS Synovate poll named him as the front runner with over 60% of those surveyed naming as the person they were likely to vote for.

William Oduol was not the only one in Siaya running against the ODM tide.

The shambolic January 17th travesty had affected several other aspirants. In Alego/Usonga George Omondi Mulwan had trounced the incumbent Edward Yinda, garnering 18, 189 to emerge first in the nominations. To his shock, apparatchiks at the Orange House headquarters of ODM in Nairobi substituted his names hours before the IEBC deadline for political parties to submit their final list of official party nominees. Mr. Omondi scurried to get an alternative party, first approaching officials of the SDP before securing the nod from the Wiper party, a partner with ODM in the CORD alliance. Mr. Mulwan would later be declared the winner of the Alego seat at the March 4th elections.

In the neighbouring Gem constituency,  a young, twenty something engineer, Booker Omole Ngesa,  the National Organizing Secretary for the small  Social Democratic Party had thrown his hat in the ring to challenge the powerful, but highly unpopular incumbent, Jakoyo Midiwo-a first cousin of the Prime Minister- who doubled as  ODM’s chief whip. Jakoyo had actually LOST in the ODM primaries against a newcomer, but had managed to secure a direct nomination from the party under controversial and unclear circumstances. In the case of Jakoyo Midiwo his most formidable foe was not a mainstream political figure but rather the electorate itself. He had angered the grass roots women of Gem with what they felt were crude, tactless and pornographic sexist snide remarks targeting their genitalia- anathema in a largely conservative and religious rural community where the bedrock of the opinion leaders consisted of middle aged church going grandmothers, aunties and mothers who felt that their errant “son” Midiwo had demonstrated disrespectful cheek and had decided to “teach him a lesson” by voting him out at the primary nomination stage. The fact that he managed to impose himself as the ODM nominee after being trounced openly in the primaries elicited considerable ire among the populace. This helped to give traction to the bids by Booker, the aforementioned Elisha and other rivals for the Gem seat.

It was not lost on observers that Jakoyo Midiwo was in cahoots with his first cousin Dr. Oburu Oginga to fix the “dissidents” in Siaya County like William Oduol, George Omondi Mulwan, Booker Ngesa, Tom Okore, Dr. Phoebe Akinyi Nyawalo, Mrs. Concelia Ondiek and others who had the “temerity” to challenge what was colloquially referred to as “Odingaism” in Luo Nyanza.

In public forums and online mailing lists targeting the electorate of Siaya, there was a groundswell of support for Oduol and all other independents who were determined to debunk the idiocy of the “six piece formula” which was deemed the very antithesis of democracy.

Most of these candidates pining for to become part of the new alternative voices in Nyanza were sophisticated, educated cosmopolitans some of whom-like Okore and Dr. Nyawalo had spent years in North America and Europe. They employed savvy tactics like sms campaigns, blogging and social media outlets to reach to a diverse audience outside Siaya country itself.

It must be underscored that Nyanza, unlike the former Central and Rift Valley provinces had evolved from a regional colonial political economy that assigned the province as a Labour Reserve, rather than as a destination for White settlement or a resource for plantation agriculture or extractive mining or industrial pursuits. This then gave rise to a phenomenon of an INTERNAL “diaspora” within the country as many of the able bodied women and men sought education and employment outside Nyanza. The fact that parastatals like the Railways, the Postal Services, the Harbours, the municipal authorities, the Police and Prisons services were among the largest public employers explains the presence of millions of Luos choosing to reside permanently in urban and semi-urban areas like Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Mombasa, Voi, Thika, Nyeri, Malindi, Nanyuki, Lamu even far flung outposts like Garissa, Mandera, Loitoktok, Magadi, Kilifi and Kwale. In some of these places-like Thika, Kilifi, Taveta and Kwale for instance- these Luo internal émigrés were lured by the dubious lucre of manual, industrial and farming work. Today, the neighbourhoods of Kaloleni, Jericho, Makongeni, Muthurwa and Kibera in Nairobi and Kisauni, Magongo, Likoni, Kongowea, Tudor, Makupa, Mtongwe and Shika Adabu are secondary permanent homes for “diaspora” Luos who still call Alego, Gem, Ugenya, Uyoma, Asembo, Bondo, Yimbo and other parts of Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori counties their “real homes even though some of their twenty first century offspring and sibling can barely string a coherent sentence in their mother tongue.

The existence of a “Siaya Diaspora” therefore provided a strong support network for these alternative political aspirants during the 2013 election season. This was bolstered by the fact that most people from western Kenya (including the Abaluhyia, Gusii, Suba and Teso communities) have strong affiliations and attachments to their rural ancestral homes. Many Kenyans outside this western region are often bemused by the insistence in which Luos, who for example have resided in Nairobi for more than fifty years will INSIST on burying their dead “back home” incurring a lot of funeral expenses rather than merely disposing of their departed relatives in the public cemeteries at Lang'ata, for instance. 

In the end, what started as something akin to an “uprising” against ODM and what was seen to be “Odingaism” ended almost with a whimper with mixed results?

In Alego Usonga, George Omondi Mulwan prevailed.  Activist Leonard Oriaro, a former “Speaker” of the well-known  Nairobi-based Bunge la Mwananchi social movement captured a  Ward Representative seat in the same Alego constituency after being rigged out during the ODM primaries. He crossed over to the National Vision Party led by Nicholas Biwott, getting over 5,000 votes, beating the runner up with a  margin of a couple of thousand votes. 

But in Siaya where the duel over who would be Governor was the main act, the ODM big wigs ultimately prevailed. According to impeccable sources, the tide against Oduol and other so called rebels came at the very last minute. On Friday, March 1, 2013 Raila Odinga toured Siaya County. Contemplating the looming embarrassment of losing his key lieutenants to upstarts and gad flies who had thumbed their collective noses at his authority in what he considered hi literal backyard, the Prime Minister opted to use a tactic he had employed during the Ndhiwa by-elections where the ODM candidate was in danger of losing: he opted to be THE CANDIDATE in each of the areas where the ODM aspirants were relatively weak. At public rally after public rally, he exhorted the electorate to VOTE FOR HIM. He was not just appealing for their votes in the presidential contest. He was using coded language to say that since he was their General, he needed soldiers when he went out to battle. These soldiers were none other than the ODM candidates, most of whom had got their tickets using unscrupulous means. Given the high stakes (with overt ethnic overtones) of the CORD/Jubilee tussle and the magnetic charisma of Raila Odinga, most of the electorate, consisting primarily of die hard and hard core ODM zealots, this overture proved to be persuasive and decisive. According to my informants, as additional icing on the cake, ODM operatives swiftly followed up within hours with what in a rural, impoverished context were “massive” financial inducements. There were credible reports of voters being given incentives of 1,000 shillings to vote for the six piece-President, Governor, Senator, National Assembly Member, Woman Representative and County Rep all from ODM.  Other reports mentioned ballot stuffing at selected constituency outlets for particular candidates.

This is the context of understanding the following news story filed by the Standard’s Lawrence Aluru on March 6, 2013:

Siaya, Kenya:  For the Siaya County Returning officer to announce gubernatorial winner, the security personnel had to intervene before he finally delivered the results.

Benson Mughatsia announced to the crowd gubernatorial results from the constituencies before finally declaring that Cornel Rasanga Amoth with a total 142,901 while his close contestant William Oduol 133,900 votes.

Mughatsia had a rough time when he rose to address the crowd which became rowdy when they sought his audience before he could proceed.

An adamant Mughatsia went on to read the final report of the results that they had got from the six constituencies.

At first, there was calm in the county hall when other results were being announced then a commotion ensued in the crowd as results for Gem constituency were being read.

Oduol and his supporters tried to stop the county elections boss from announcing the gubernatorial post as they said that they were ejected from Sawagongo high school where Gem tallying were conducted. 

Apparently they had lost in Bondo, Rarieda and Gem where they were citing electoral malpractices while they managed to win in Alego, Usonga and Ugenya Constituency.

Oduol said that the delay to announce the results was a ploy to doctor the votes in favour of his opponent.

IEBC operations almost came to a standstill when his supporters brought commotion into the hall.

Siaya OCPD Stephen Cheteka and his team had to intervene for the County returning officer to announce the results.

Initially, Oduol had written to the IEBC chairman through the CRO to demand that the results to be announced and transmitted at the end of the voting exercise to the IEBC national tallying centre via electronic system.

He said that this was because ODM agents were allowed by the IEBC officials to buy voters in the precincts of the voting area.

Oduol went further to state in the letter that, “Gubernatorial position results announcement should be suspended pending a full audit of all the votes cast in all polling stations of the county.” 

He said that the returning officer in Gem permitted thugs, under the command of Jakoyo Midiwo to invade the tallying hall during the tallying exercise to forcefully eject him and his aides from the hall.

When The Standard spoke to Midiwo who is the MP elect for Gem, he said that he had only gone to attend to the announcement of the parliamentary seat for which he contested.

“Those are the kicks of a dying horse. He knows very well that my main intention is to get my own results how again do I create commotion?" Midiwo posed.

In Ugenya constituency, David Ochieng of ODM is the new Member of National Assembly after beating his closest rival Chris Karan of National Agenda Party of Kenya with more than 18,000 votes.

Rarieda in the meantime retained Nicholas Gumbo to represent them in parliament in the next five years.
But Edwin Yinda met the wrath of the voters when his rival from the word go at the nominations Mr. George Omondi Muluan got the highest votes to represent the vast constituency in parliament.

James Orengo of ODM easily won the Senatorial contest.

In Bondo Gideon Ochanda of ODM took the seat.

So when all is said and done, was there a “Siaya Spring” after all?

On the face of it, this was not the case.

The 2013 elections were the first to be held under the aegis of the constitution that Kenyans overwhelmingly embraced three years earlier. The campaign was suffused with the promise of a new dawn, with hints of ushering in a new constitutional dispensation opening the doors to a new national democratic renewal.

It is almost a paradox to understand why there was so much rigging and foul play on the eve of these historic elections.

One cannot understand what happened in Siaya without looking at the wider national context.

The “Six Piece” phenomenon was not confined to ODM. It was present in TNA, URP, Wiper and all the major parties. They all wanted to elect all the six candidates per constituency on their own ticket. One can think this only “logical and natural” given the fact that they were pushing for state power at the national and county levels.

But there was a more primordial impetus. 

The ruling comprador bourgeoisie national elite are in the process of merging, realigning and reconfiguring themselves in terms of the strata, fractions and  factions of these elite forces who predicate their survival in terms of how global shifts in world monopoly capitalist economy impacts on their strivings for  primitive accumulation at the local neo-colonial levels. A largely unproductive bunch, those who make up  what is referred to as the Kenyan ruling elite are totally dependent on how the use the levers of  neo-colonial state power to stay relevant especially in the wake of the discovery of oil, gas and natural resources like titanium, gold and other minerals. They are aware that with the devolved system of governance and the retreat of the centralized state, they need to hang on to power at the county levels as well as the national sphere. That explains their obsession with hand picking the governors, senators and other members of the county governments. They show fealty to devolution because they have been nurtured in the ambience of patron-client relationship in the old predatory state headed by an all powerful president. Like chameleons they are only changing the camouflaging their class intentions by pretending that they are champions of devolution.

But what they want to implement DEVOLUTION is not devolution of governance or popular participation of course.

The "devolution" they want to implement is the DEVOLUTION OF CORRUPTION. The regionalization and privatization of LOOTING and PLUNDER of natural, national and public resources using the conduits of POWER at the National and County levels.

While the big honchos carve out resources and finances at the national state levels they have recruited their cronies, acolytes, family members, lovers, mistresses, gigolos and fellow gangsters at the county level add to the swag.

At the end of the day, and in the final analysis, it is the ordinary women and men who registered as voters in Siaya County who will decide who is going to be the new Governor.

Will the voter turn out be as sky high as it was in early March of this year?

Are the same intense passions present?

How about the level of mass mobilization and political engagement?

Will money, bribery, intimidation and national politics loom large in this by election or will all those factors be trumped by the fidelity of the candidates to local, Siaya County specific issues?

Will the media driven smear campaign against William Oduol have the effect of turning of some of his potential supporters?

These questions will be fully answered at the end of election night in this by-election for Siaya Governor.

Onyango Oloo

Nairobi, Kenya

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Oloo @ 53

Tipper Gore, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Matthew Perry, Sarah Burton, Lillian Garcia, Patrick Chung and Bill Clinton celebrate their birthdays on August 19th.

So do I.

On the eve of my birthday, I went to a little shebeen next to the  

Kibera Plaza, a few hundred metres in the vicinity of the 

Law Courts in the Makina area of Kibra here in the Kenyan capital.

I was here to meet Dennis Ooko, a small business man who trades in second hand clothes at the nearby Toi market as well as boosting his income via a taxi that he recently bought. He had hired one of his cousins to operate it on his behalf.

Dennis and I have known each other since Saturday, August 19, 2006 when we met at Christ the King Community Centre, a Catholic run space where we had convened to sensitize people about the World Social Forum which was scheduled to be held in Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium a few months thence. At the time, I was the National Coordinator of the Kenya Social Forum, the host organization which, in conjunction with its Ugandan and Tanzanian counterparts, had set up the East African Organizing Committee to prepare for this annual global event for activists and progressive people. My own involvement in the WSF process had picked up in earnest after some socialist comrades of mine back here in Kenya had sought me out across the Atlantic to convince me to leave my Montreal domicile to be a part of this historic event. I was interviewed, along with other candidates in East Africa and soon offered the job of coordinator.  Gladly accepting, I was soon to be on a Nairobi-bound plane. Touching down on October 28, 2005, I did not know at the time that this was to mark the end of my 18 year sojourn in Canada as a government assisted refugee, political exile and permanent resident who opted NOT to take up Canadian citizenship when I became eligible in 1991.

From our initial encounter through the mobilization of marginalized groups for the WSF, Dennis and I became very close friends.

In 2007 when my South African comrades active in the Johannesburg-based Khanya College invited me, in my capacity as Director of the fledgling Sankara Centre to  select half a dozen Nairobi-based activists to attend their two week long Winter School in July of that year (the southern winter takes place during the northern summer for those who may be getting confused), Dennis was among the folks I picked, along with the progressive hip hop musician who goes by the moniker Sinpare (a stage name coined in tribute his mother who SINgle PAREnted him) Valerie Mugure, a young dynamic lawyer who was a militant with the NCEC civil society group and others.

For some reason, it was Dennis I thought of looking up with reflections of my upcoming birthday looming in my mind.

We did not do much.

Dennis told me how he stayed upto the wee hours of the previous nights/present day gyrating to the unique Ohangla rhythms and near cryptic lyrics of fast rising local star 

Emma Jalamo at the joint called Big Five located in that area of Kibra simply called “Garage” adjacent to the estate nicknamed “Fort Jesus”, not to be confused with the ancient Portuguese fortress later British colonial prison now Kenyan neo-colonial museum in Mombasa.

We had  ordered a simple lunch of ugali and goat stew and when it arrived we wolfed it down with Pilsner which we both partake of-even though I was slightly disgruntled because like most ex-Diasporans I take my beer cold whereas the rest of my compatriots INSIST on a   WARM beer, something which perplexes me to this day.

Having visited with Dennis (I am using “visited” in the context that my Southern Baptist American missionary teachers used to employ the term during my secondary school days in Mombasa in the mid to late seventies) it was time for me to head back to my humble one bedroom apartment in the Eastlands part of Nairobi.
Those who know me closely are aware that I married after my wife died in May 2007. I even blogged some romantic poetry about that situation.

Well, I am currently uncoupled, living in solitary confinement with two other people-me and myself.

And to use the threadbare cliché, it is not HER it is ME.

I would not rush to describe myself as “single” because that would be slightly misleading. 

Let us just say that I am a recovering serial monogamist who is NOT looking for a spouse, a mistress, a nyumba ndogo, a mpango wa kando or a chips funga for that matter; I am not yet ready to “mingle” with a with a defrocked frisky female who, to use a risqué term, is as hot as a freshly f***ed fox in a forest fire any time soon. 

I want to weigh the pros and cons of celibacy, although, given my long active sexual history (first had sex FORTY YEARS ago, at age 13-going downtown on a fellow teen-and only stopped for five years, and only because I was thrust kicking and screaming by the state behind huge maximum security penitentiary walls and I do NOT do my fellow men), I suspect that will be a rather tall order

I am an early candidate to fail this crucial mid-life exam flat.

But we shall see, wont we? 

I will provide an update of how I fared in that department when I am a year older.

That is an iron clad pledge.

My present outlook on marriage is to view that citadel of holy matrimony quite unlike the way an over confident antelope, a conceited guinea fowl, a ditzy quail or a not so smart hare would blithely ignore a fool proof snare cleverly constructed and camouflaged behind a thicket at the edge of a savannah forest by vicious indigenous hunters to trap the little beast for supper-if birds are also considered “beasts”.
But that was a by the way.

What I really wanted to talk about was how it feels like being a Jubilee offspring.

Now I do not mean that I am tied to the Jubilee umbilical CORD.

No Way, José (my dear Kenyans, please pronounce José as HoSay, that is how the Spanish speaking folks say it; NOT JOSE, like Joseph!). 

I am still a dyed-in- the-wool Communist who is part of the SDP leadership.

But I am really a Jubilee child.

It is actually a friend of mine, who is a couple of years younger than I who a few months ago when we were chatting on  

via our respective Android smart phones who  told me with a voice wafting from the shores of the Mediterranean:

“Oloo, you know, you and I are with Uhuru and the rest of our age mates, Jubilee kids.”

And she was referring to the decade when we were all born- or more precisely the first half of that decade, the SIXTIES.

We the children of independence, not quite Rushdie’s Midnight Children.

But irrespective of our ethnic or regional backgrounds, many of us were named after Kenyatta, Jomo, Odinga, Oginga, Nyerere, Obote, Kwame, Nkrumah, Lumumba, Sekou, Toure, Nasser, Kaunda and the like.

When I was a little boy, I remember my father lifting up beside a road lined on both sides by enthusiastic spectators to watch a bearded old man dressed in khaki shorts waving a fly whisk as he passed by atop a vehicle somewhere in Nairobi. Later on MY old man told me that the old man was Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and that it must have been 1963. When I was still the same little boy-it must have been 1964 or early 1965, I remember my grand pa, Isaya Oloo who bought and read Taifa Leo and Baraza every time it came out at the 

Dudi Shopping Centre in the cusp of where Gem meets Kisa on the border of the former Nyanza and Western Provinces; I remember my delirious grandfather swinging me by little hands as he swayed from side to side singing off key: 

“Yaya Uhuru! Yaya Kenyatta! 
Yaya Uhuru! Yaya Kenyatta!
 Yaya Uhuru! Yaya Kenyatta!
 Yaya Uhuru! Yaya Kenyatta!"

Over and over and over and over again.

But I also remember 1968, as a  Standard Two,  8 year old pupil going to Mariakani Primary School-not at the Coast but the one located in the Nairobi South B neighbhourhood, visiting my father during the second term school holidays at his work station as  the Officer Commanding Machakos G.K. Prison and rifling through his library and browsing through Encyclopedia Britannica and accosting such moth eaten tomes as  Gandhi: World Citizen; the Autobiography of Field Marshall Montgomery; the slim red covered volume, Is Communism the Answer?  And most fascinating of all, Not Yet Uhuru, by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga-all these books next to a neatly stacked pile of yellowing East African Standard in the vintage broadsheet format.

Yes, I could read in 1968 when I was in Standard Two. 

My aunt Alice, who was two years younger than my father, was my first teacher at the nursery class of the Railway Training School. She taught me to read and write by the time I was six years old. I was shocked the other day from a Nigerian friend called Mayowa Adeniran who put me on his mailing list; I was shocked to learn to read from him that 

“a recent document verification exercise carried out by Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomole revealed just how low the state of the Nigerian education system has sunk. In this video, Governor Oshiomole asked a primary school teacher to read out her own affidavit, and the result was shocking. The school teacher could not read her own document!”

Have the Nigerians sunk LOWER than the Kenyans where there is a BOOMING BIASHARA in academia as undergraduates, masters and doctorate students employ so called “editorial consultants” to ghost research, ghost compose, ghost revise, ghost submit essays, term papers, dissertations et cetera et cetera for the empty headed but deep pocketed future “university educated” MPs, Senators, Governors and Presidents in waiting??!

Sorry, went off on an impulsive rant for a second there.

What I was struggling to say that we, the Jubilee Children of African Independence we have  gone from  giddy to disillusioned  to  cynical, only rediscovering our Afro Optimism as we gear up for our SIXTH DECADE on Planet Earth.

Today, as I begin my 53rd year I am very happy to be an African because I see a  bright future for this continent suffused with hope; I see economic prosperity and wealth dangling in our tomorrow especially in the wake of new mineral and natural resource discoveries in unlikely places like Mozambique, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

But first we must get rid of the Johnnie Come Lately electoral bandits who try to evolve into the sitting Presidents for life who endorse their fake poll victories.

 But even as I hope I cringe with trepidation as I contemplate how the Information and Technological Revolution has also produced highly educated, well connected and networked Twittering Facebookers who spell “later” as “l8tr” and are always going “lol” when they read of a gang rape or a massacre.

Am I going senile at 53?

What am I struggling to say?

Well, let me go and celebrate my birthday in town with some friends.


Onyango Oloo

Nairobi, Kenya