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Monday, 6 May 2013

Implications Of Raila's First International Ambush on Uhuru


                                                                     Courtesy Of Joe Adama

Raila Amolo Odinga: Former Prime Minister
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s first overseas engagement, the Oxford Analytica /Times CEO Africa Summit in London, where he delivered a keynote speech on Tuesday evening, was not initially very well covered by both the Kenyan media and his own communications team.

Compared to Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, who also delivered a keynote speech to the same Summit the same day on the same theme, the coverage and availability of the full text of Raila’s controversial address were slow in coming.

In great contrast, President Mahama’s full speech and the video of his address were mounted on the Internet within minutes of delivery overnight on Tuesday/Wednesday on multiple Ghana-oriented websites, both official and not.

By Wednesday lunchtime, only Raila’s Twitter and Facebook accounts indicated that he had indeed also delivered his own speech the previous evening, but the full text was nowhere to be found and there was no video.

The Times of London, co-sponsors of the Summit alongside prestigious and authoritative global research firm Oxford Analytica, had a news report, the speech and video, but Kenyans had to subscribe to access more than the first few paragraphs of the news and Summit reports.

Raila’s choice and timing of first intercontinental engagement was a political class act like none other, in the wake of a presidential election, including a transition poll, in Kenyan history.

FOREMOST RISK ANALYSTS

The CEO Africa Summit brings together the chairpersons and chief executives of Africa’s biggest business and international investors and prospective investors as well as some of the foremost risk analysts.

No other declared loser of a presidential poll in Kenya has latched on to such a high profile global forum so soon after being outmanoeuvred at home.

In all likelihood, when they invited Raila, the organizers of the CEO Africa Summit had little doubt that he would arrive in London designated Fourth President of the Republic Kenya.

Indeed, much Oxford Analytica analysis of the run-up to and prolonged immediate aftermath of the Kenyan general election fancied Raila’s prospects over Uhuru Kenyatta’s, as did much of the rest of Britain’s mainstream media.

For instance, the Independent newspaper of London, an eminently liberal publication, carried an analysis a jump ahead of the election candidly headlined, “If Raila Odinga wins Kenya's elections, Britain's interests are secure, but if Uhuru Kenyatta wins...”. This feature had the preamble, “A new leader in Nairobi could be bad news for the UK”, and was written by one Kim Sengupta.

Across the Atlantic in America, the New York Times greeted Uhuru’s election with an editorial headlined “Awkward Choice in Kenya” and signed, remarkably, not by any one correspondent or bureau chief but by the NYT Editorial Board.

When he mounted the podium on Tuesday evening, which was bedecked with Times branding, Raila, like President Mahama in the case of his own country, was expected to handle the theme of the realities of doing business in Africa, profiling Kenya’s readiness for business and the opportunities available for partnership with this country’s private sector. He was also invited to make a few remarks on the March 4 General Election, its aftermath and the way forward.

He dealt with the prescribed themes, speaking of Kenya as an investment destination backed by its talented human resource base, particularly the youth, and the stability prevalent in the region.

And then Raila embarked on a most remarkable message to Kenya and the world from that very special time and place and audience. He declared that this country could plunge into violence again if President Uhuru Kenyatta favours his own ethnic group too much.

UHURUTO ‘UNAWARE OF DANGER’

And he said darkly: “The Supreme Court was compromised and there is a lot of tension because people feel they have been robbed. I fear it could turn into violence if the President takes a winner-takes-all position. At the moment there is little sign they are aware of the danger”.

Almost as if on cue on Thursday morning May 2, Kenyans woke up to news on the BBC World Service Amka na BBC and News Day FM radio programmes to the effect that the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was finding it extremely difficult, if not downright impossible, to table its report with the President or his aides as required by law against a very strict reporting deadline.

The TJRC was established by an Act of Parliament in 2008, when the fires of the post-election violence were still smouldering, and tasked with interviewing witnesses, victim and victimizer survivors of historic injustices, including assassinations, torture, displacements, land grabs and grand corruption, from 1963 to 2008. It was scheduled to table its findings with President Kenyatta on Friday last week.

Quoting authoritative sources inside Kenya, most likely from within the Commission itself, the BBC claimed that as of Thursday this week the TJRC report had exactly 48 hours to be tabled before the President or his aides or it would become null and void.

Reporting that the Office of the President had refused to receive the report before being allowed to peruse an advance copy, the BBC openly speculated that the problem probably lay in the massive charges brought by multiple witnesses, victims and others against the administrations and persons of Kenya’s first two presidents – Uhuru’s Dad Jomo and Uhuru’s political benefactor Moi – as well as Mwai Kibaki.

As we went to press, it looked as if the TJRC Report, identified in these columns last week as one of the baptism-of-fire factors for the new administration, would go the way of the Kroll Report of 2006.

Global security and forensic audit experts Kroll were commissioned by the Kibaki administration to inquire into grand corruption and capital flight under the 24-year-long Moi administration, but when they tabled their report, for which the government paid millions of shillings upfront, it was promptly shelved.

Instead, copies of the sensational report were leaked on the Internet but never certified by either Kroll or the Kibaki regime as the original and genuine document, with both saying they were not in the business of issuing such certifications.

As for the fact of both President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto being crimes-against-humanity indictees of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Raila told his international audience:

“It caused the other side to unite against the ICC. They said the ICC is a Western institution and we have to unite against it to protect our people”.

The timing of Raila’s international ambush on President Kenyatta’s still-under-construction administration has far-reaching implications, not the least of which is whether it is a one-off or the first in a series that will likely go all the way to 2017 and the end of Uhuru’s first term in office.

Raila has struck at a particularly vulnerable time for the new President. The Foreign Secretary nominee, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, a brilliant choice for the office, has yet to undergo a vetting process by both the public and Parliament that is likely to last all this month.

Kenya’s entire complement of ambassadors around the world (Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, Oceania and multilateral organizations) including the High Commissioner to Britain, was recently recalled awaiting redeployments, firing and, or hiring and then told to stay in place until further notice.

Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Mwangi Thuita is in all likelihood outward bound, but the rapid response to the damage wrought by Raila could well fall to him, or be sorted out by Amb Mohamed and other strategists behind the scenes, and be delivered in Thuita’s name and designation.

The construction site edifice of the Uhuru administration is also labouring under the long shadow of the crimes-against-humanity charges at the ICC brought three years ago, with one of the cases, Ruto’s, scheduled to start later this month.

The Uhuru administration has struggled mightily in a balancing act between the ICC indictments and the maintenance of cordial relations with the United States, Britain and the European Union, all of whom are major development and trading partners.

With his dire remarks at an investment risk global conference, Raila has suddenly made Uhuru and Ruto’s tightrope act look like they are frenetically balancing on a rope in flux – and he is the one flexing the sisal.

Raila’s remarks in London, where he assured a rapt audience of investors, prospective investors and the crème de la crème of the academic and corporate risk research and analysis community that, as long ago as the immediate aftermath of the presidential poll, “There would have been violence if I had not stepped aside,” could not have come at a worse time.

The Times headlined their report on Raila’s Summit address “Kenya President ‘must reach across the tribes’ to avert violence” on Labour Day, May 1.

Far behind closed doors in the corridors of power in Nairobi, Raila’s address has been received with something akin to road rage – and a sense of betrayal.

RAILA CRAMPS MUTUNGA’S STYLE

And this is an observation that is true also of the highest echelons of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has long moved effortlessly and with maximum dignity in gatherings such as the Oxford Analytica/Times CEO Africa Summit, rubbing shoulders with and contending with the global elite of all sectors who are guests at such meetings. Following Raila’s unsubstantiated charges at the Africa Summit, Dr Mutunga will doubtless swim with a little less aplomb in such waters.

Interestingly, Mutunga’s tweet and press statement denying that he had ever received a bribe in his life came just a jump ahead of the Raila speech in London.

Another implication of Raila’s ambush is that it signals the tenor and flavour of his relationship with Uhuru henceforth – the Odinga/Kenyatta rivalry has just been rebooted for a new electoral cycle, and it will be cutthroat adversarial all the way.This is underlined by the fact that he chose the London event to confirm he was indeed headed back to Parliament, where he would be nothing less than leader of the opposition, a decision he indicated he would finalize over the next fortnight.

Making the announcement at a global forum, instead of at a caucus somewhere in Kenya of his Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) Alliance, is a clear signal that Raila intends his leadership of the opposition to the Jubilee government to be a very loud affair indeed, with the decibels easily reaching the international community, including strategic investors and development partners, via international media, as often as possible.

The Kenyan blogosphere, Diaspora included, will be on fire anew. How will the new administration react? The Jubilee government’s true believers are already privately reacting by viewing Raila like the proverbial fly in one’s soup and all sorts of epithets are filling the air, including talk of treason, far-fetched in this day and age as that might sound.

WHEN ‘TIMES OF LONDON’ TARGETED JOMO

Raila’s London gambit is much more than merely upping the ante internally in Kenya. Oxford Analytica and the Times of London are not just another two British institutions.

Both can give a nation and country like Kenya a seriously bad name and reputation where it really matters in the chancelleries and state houses of the West. By the same token both can be crucial to a good and proactive image in the West.

A bad press generated by the Times can be very bad news indeed. Many London-based Kenyan envoys (like the envoys of many another nation, including US ambassadors and assorted attaches) have had occasion to write a letter to the Times and the outgoing Kenyan London envoy will doubtless fire off a missive to the newspaper in the wake of the latest developments.

In the very early 1980s, Charles Mugane Njonjo, Attorney General of Kenya since 1963 and eminence grise to two consecutive presidents, Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi, and, to this day, Kenya’s foremost anglophile, at 93, made it his business to invite the then editor-in-chief of the Times, William Rees-Mogg, to lunch at his Muthaiga, Nairobi, home. Rees-Mogg, like Njonjo, wore dark pin-striped suits throughout his career (he died Lord Rees-Mogg in 2012) and had a very conservative worldview.

This high-level invite was strategic; it came at a time when the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Raila’s father) and one-time MP George Anyona were making waves on an extended visit to London to the effect that they would launch the first opposition party in Kenya since the Kenya People’s Union (KPU), banned in November 1969, in the UK. This ruffled feathers a great deal in the then de facto one-party state.

Not long after the Odinga/Anyona London outing and Njonjo’s hosting of Rees-Mogg at Muthaiga, Moi and his AG engineered the constitutional amendment known as Section 2(a), making Kenya a de jure one-party state and ruling party Kanu the only legitimate political organization within these borders.

The second President Kenyatta has entered office without a Kenyan anglophile of Njonjo’s prestige, prescience, smarts and networks getting his back on the former colonial masters and the extended West. He has a first-class team of lawyers from Britain for his ICC predicament and had British PR wizards BTP as international campaign consultants and strategists, but he has no one within government or, just off-government, in his kitchen Cabinet, who can engage the British establishment, including the media establishment, the way Njonjo did for two presidents across two decades.

In the mid-1970s, following the JM Kariuki assassination, the Sunday Times Insight Team of investigative journalists got seriously on Mzee Kenyatta and First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta and their niece Beth Mugo’s case, detailing their landholdings (complete with maps) and assorted business deals in a series of articles that reportedly only stopped when Njonjo intervened at the highest board levels of the media group’s ownership.

But how times change. Paradoxically, if Njonjo consults for any Kenyan nowadays, it’s for Raila, son of his 1960s and 1970s most despised power prey the Jaramogi, not Uhuru, son of his great mentor Jomo.

Moi invited Uhuru to his Karbanet Gardens home in March, while the latter was still President-elect. Moi and Njonjo have not hobnobbed in public throughout the former president’s 11-year retirement.

Raila’s London ambush came the same week that the British High Commissioner, Dr Christian Turner, paid a courtesy call on President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, and expressed London’s commitment to doubling investment in Kenya and transforming this country into the region’s capital of financial services within Uhuru’s first term in office.

Above all, of course, Uhuru needs the ICC monkey off his back. As long as President Uhuru and Deputy President Ruto are ICC indictees, a nifty Raila will seem to run rings around them in the still crucial international arena of the world’s sole superpower and Western Europe.

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