The race to elect Kenya’s fourth president since independence has so far attracted the well-known political names in the country, even though some greenhorns have emerged from the woodwork. As President Mwai Kibaki is retiring at the next election, the battle to succeed him is turning out to be a high stakes battle.
Already the key contenders have hit the campaign trail, but the man the punters have put their money on is having a rough time. Raila Odinga, the lively prime minister of Kenya, says he will run on a “reformist” agenda, but even before his campaign moves into full gear, all hell has broken loose.
And this is thanks to Miguna Miguna, the advisor on constitutional affairs that Odinga sacked last year. He has written a tell-all book which is clearly aimed at crippling Odinga’s campaign even before it starts.
Peeling the Mask: A Quest for Justice In Kenya, is Miguna’s latest salvo aimed at the man he once vocally defended. The book shows Odinga in unflattering terms. A former loyalist and confidant of Odinga, Miguna is using the inside information he obtained in those days to expose the man who sacked him.
The 600-page book has left many Kenyans and Odinga’s closest supporters, especially those in the diplomatic community, in shock. Miguna paints the prime minister, in the book, as unworthy of high office, and cites many examples to explain why. No wonder the book has caused a political storm in Nairobi, as the gory allegations therein have given Odinga’s opponents a field day. His supporters, however, are furious, and have mounted a counter-offensive to turn Miguna, who hails from the same community as Odinga, into an item of national scorn.
Days after the release of the book, Miguna’s effigy was burned in his hometown of Nyando, which is in Nyanza, the bedrock of Odinga’s diehard supporters.
Odinga’s campaign team is now in overdrive, trying to deflate the damage Miguna’s book has caused. They see him as out to undermine the prime minister’s political career, and view the book as a work influenced by malice and sour grapes after Miguna fell out with Odinga.
But Miguna insists that he is not reckless and malicious. “I have written this book to tell the truth that will help this country find justice,” he says.
Before the book came out, Odinga had planned to sell to the electorate his vibrant career in the fight for democracy, which saw him incarcerated and exiled. He holds the record of Kenya’s longest-serving detainee under President Daniel arap Moi’s government.
What separates Odinga from many of his opponents is that he does not owe his politics to Moi, and has a history that no one else opposing him shares. However, the trouble with him appears to be his inability to keep friends. Since the book was released, Odinga has kept mum, instead letting his aides do the talking.
In the book, Miguna challenges
Odinga to retire from politics because of what he calls Odinga’s somersaults from a socialist-leaning politician to a champion of free enterprise and now a diehard capitalist. Miguna claims that Odinga is a wealthy man with vast interests in oil and extractive industries, and is enjoying cosy relations with Western interests.
Miguna further claims that Odinga’s party had a hand in the post-election violence of 2007-08 which claimed 1,333 lives, and resulted in a heavy destruction of property. This revelation has particularly incensed many in Odinga’s party.
But Miguna is unrepentant: “I have enough evidence to take anyone to The Hague,” he claims. “I know everything about the post-election violence.”
At the book launch, Miguna (who later flew to Canada on the book tour) dared the scores of people he has named in the book to sue him, and Odinga’s chief of staff, Caroli Omondi, has done just that.
But Miguna is undeterred: “Truth is an absolute defence in law,” he says. “I am very good in libel law. I want them to sue me so that I can teach them some law. I am telling them ‘come baby come’.”