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Agnes Zani, senator who is not hesitant to speak out

Clad in a white karate regalia, the girl with a soft and appealing face stunned everyone, her parents included, when she landed a crushing blow on three bricks piled on each other and broke through them.

Eh, huyo alikuwa wewe kweli (was that really you)?” her mother would later ask, wide-eyed and surprised that there was so much power in her humble little girl.

Agnes Zani was at the time a student at the University of Nairobi, which she joined in 1987, and was taking a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. Unknown to her parents was that she was into karate and judo and was working her way to a green belt.

The same question her mother asked must have been on the lips of her colleagues in the National Super Alliance last Monday when she landed the equivalent of her heel on their heads.

Now, figuratively wrapped in the regalia of the Orange party, she had done the unthinkable in politics by confirming that some of the contents of a leaked document were indeed correct.

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LEAKED DOCUMENTS

Last week, someone in the Opposition alliance had leaked a document that gave a long-awaited answer to the persistent question of who their flagbearer would be.

It is a divisive matter and from how the Opposition has been going about it, it was not the time to be making such announcements. When confronted with leaked documents, it is de rigueur to doubt their content, despise their origin and deny their existence.

Damage control was, therefore, necessary and after night meetings between Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi and then a morning meeting between Mr Mudavadi and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and then talks at the Lonrho House office of James Orengo over cups of coffee from Java, the press was called.

This was after Mr Odinga’s co-principals demanded an apology for the statement.  

Mr Orengo and his co-chairmen of the National Co-ordinating Committee (NCC), Dr Eseli Simiyu, Mr Johnson Muthama and Mr Sakwa Bunyasi did their best to show that the alliance was together and reports of their split had been grossly exaggerated.

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LATEST STATEMENT

The gist of their statement was that the press had been taking too seriously statements about the alliance made anonymously.

It was, however, pointed out to them that the latest statement came from one of their own and Mr Orengo said: “There is really nothing that she said. If you look at the bottom-line of that statement, I think there is nothing really to say.

This is a firestorm. The way the story has come out is that there is a split, there is a firestorm but you can see the four of us are here representing all the parties.

We are the people with the authority from the National Super Alliance. Why should you listen to somebody else who doesn’t have that authority?”

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All along, Dr Zani was seated in the next room, and when Mr Orengo walked into it the journalists present saw her. She was seated at a desk across from Amani National Congress secretary-general Godfrey Osotsi, who had voiced complaints about the leak, and she was wearing that same knowing smile.

From what Mr Orengo and the rest of the NCC co-chairmen said, it is unlikely that the soft-spoken former lecturer of sociology at the University of Nairobi will be making the sort of brick-breaking statements she made last Monday.

She will likely remain ODM’s safe pair of hands, avoiding the path taken by the party’s last secretary general — the lively, eloquent and ultimately rebellious Ababu Namwamba. Last Monday’s statement will, however, serve as a reminder to the party, and in turn the alliance, that somewhere inside the soft-spoken senator is an assertive voice that is not hesitant to speak out and, if necessary, break through the bricks.

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