Friday, December 08, 2006

From Hero to Zero: The Fall and Fall of the Kenyan Opposition

How the mighty have fallen! Listening to the sycophantic fawning of Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi during the debate on the President's salary, one would be hard-pressed to imagine that he was the scourge of the Moi regime. In 2002, just the whiff of power was enough to get Dr. Kituyi to abandon his long-held (and I think genuinely held) principles. During the chaotic NARC nominations, I read with disbelief reports of him raining blows on another candidate who presumed to present his nomination papers. Then shortly after the electoral triumph of NARC and his elevation to the Cabinet, he was caught on national TV promising a fat government job to the Sabaot community. Just consider the words of William Ruto (not exactly an angel himself) during yesterday's Parliamentary debate: "In 1997, when I came to this House [Dr. Kituyi] could not afford to hire a car, but he now flies in a helicopter."

Dr. Kituyi's moral descent mirrors that of other former opposition and civil society luminaries such as Kiraitu Murungi, Martha Karua and Kivutha Kibwana. The question is, what is it about the Kenyan system that makes hyenas out of erstwhile sheep? Or were they never sheep to begin with? Why do we get internationally renowned lawyers such as Amos Wako and turn them into thieves (or abetters of thievery)? How come that formerly staunch defender of Press freedoms, Martha Karua, has, since she came to power, herself filed over 15 cases in court against the very same press? Why does the man who more than any other personified the fight for a people-driven constitution, Prof. Kibwana, turn around and try to foist a bastardized version on the people?

Before I am accused of ODM bias, I seem to remember Prof. Anyang' Nyongo defending the MP salary increment which was the first act of the current Parliament. This gentleman once famously spoke of those "incompetent to govern", referring to the KANU regime. Yet when he was placed in a position of authority, he did the exact same things they were doing.

When Raila Odinga dissolved his NDP party and joined KANU, he became one of the most vociferous critics of his former comrades-in arms in the opposition. As a Cabinet Minister, he once called for the prosecution of James Orengo and his Muungano wa Mageuzi comrades for treason. Their crime? Holding a series of anti-Moi rallies which had been banned by the police on "security" grounds -the same thing Raila's ODM colleagues were doing on Tuesday.

Now, I am not talking here about the Kibakis, Saitotis and Michukis of this administration. We already knew them to be incorrigibly corrupt and dictators at heart. I am asking about those who for many years and at great cost to themselves, fought against the tyranny of KANU, only to turn around and perpetrate the very same tyranny on the mwananchi. I think what we have here is not just a case of a few rotten apples but a systemic failure. And this leaves Kenya more vulnerable than during the KANU days. At least back then we had hope of an alternative, and yes, better government. Back then, we we had a vibrant civil society which could inspire and mobilize the people to fight against injustice. In fact, in the face of the ineffectual and divided Parliamentary opposition, civil society became the de facto check on KANU excess. However, in the euphoria of 2002, we allowed this movement to be decapitated. Its leaders all cashed in their chips and jumped ship. Now they are all arraigned against us with no one standing with us.


Anonymous said...

Greed, pure and simple.

Gathara said...

True, but I think there's a larger problem here. Why can't these people retain their morals and principles once they step into government? Is it the case that Kenyans are singularly unable to resist corruption? I think it is more likely that the system we have lends itself to abuse and corrupts all who venture there.

That said, I am not trying to excuse the abhorrent behaviour of our MPs. I just want to understand it.

Anonymous said...

Once again the "political pundits"on mashada have outdone themselves .so kibaki got a pay raise whats the big deal the guy now earns 2million shilling+ a month and the economy is growing at 5+% . The anger is that half the population of kenya earns less than a dollar a day

i am not being insensitive. i feel for those guys but what does kibaki salary have to do with it . lets assume we can strip kibaki of his salary and distribute it to all kenyans

at 2 million shilling a month that is 24 million shillings a year
kenyans population is 32 million that means we would each get
yes a grand total of

75 cents each per year

i will not even go to divide it by month or by day . so you see when you look at the economic impact of his so called "eating" its really nothing paid or unpaid it wont increase or reduce the cost of bread in kenya. the man is doing a good job so why not pay him for his good work and motivate him to work harder .

This is a none issue .ODM is so into cheap politics its not funny.Rather than complain about the salary why not give us the magic economic formular that will take that 2 million and pay lectures ,civil servants and uplift the millions living with less than a dollar a day . that formular must be really impressive


jm said...

"Why can't these people retain their morals and principles once they step into government? "

Gathara, you have raised the classic game theory question.

The reason they cannot "retain their morals and principles once they step into gova" is this:

Those morals, those principles, those promises that were made ... were made ex-ante.

Ex-ante committments are NEVER credible, especially in politics.
They are merely there to seduce, to be used to gain power.
Ex-post, that is when we observe what "self-interested behaviour" really means ... it is happening with the current gova., and even the ones ODM people, should they win next year [God Forbid] will do EXACTLY the opposite of what they are saying now. That is a guarantee.

Point being, ordinary mwananchi in the midst of all these political games, is the one who suffers.

I think the key problem is a collective action one , that is, how do we make all these Kituyis, Murungis, Anyonas, Odingas, etc... act for the benefit of teh country, or if you believe Adam Smith's assertion that all individuals act in self-interested behaviour, then we can mull over this: are their self-interests aligned with the interests of teh country? Can they ever be?

Dr. Stephen Kabera Karanja said...

anonymous - You do not see anything wrong when leaders award themselves hefty pay rises while the common man lives on less than a dollar? The gap between what the politicians and common man earns is the problem. In this scenario such high salaries are immoral, unethical, unreasonable and corruption. It is robbing the national coffers to afford the politicians a luxurious life. The pay hike was unjustified because the President had not complained or asked for the rise. Politicians should set a good example and put the interest of the common people before theirs (politicians). The politicians seem to live in a completely different world than the people who elected them. True, Kibaki is helping the country bake a bigger cake but should he take 465 times more than the ordinaly person?

stephen said...

A time is coming..and it might be here with us when the poor will have nothing to eat but the rich. When all hope is lost and nothing to live for...

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