My relationship with Raila Odinga has been interesting and intriguing, full of drama and controversy. It is a relationship that has left me bruised and smeared in political mud and at times smiling and shining in heroic oil. The media and political analysts have at times described us as sworn enemies. His supporters have in some instances accused me of betraying him. Some even gave me a tag; the watermelon, during campaigns for the draft constitution in 2010. When I joined the Kibaki government in 2008 after the disputed 2007 General Election, anger and fury greeted me from Raila’s supporters. Many have argued, out of misinformation, that I denied Raila the presidency in 2007.
However, despite our differences, Raila and I are united in our passion for social justice and democracy in Kenya. History and time may have written our life’s scripts differently, but the theme is the same. Our friendship has been occasionally marred by suspicion, propaganda and intrigue; driven mostly by misinformation from forces that have always wanted us apart.
Historically we have little in common. While I come from a remote part of Ukambani, Raila hails from a politically famous family. My father Peter Musyoka Mairu, brought me up from humble beginnings as a shopkeeper in Tseikuru. Raila’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s political shadow hovered over Kenya like a colossus. His influence especially in opposition politics defined many chapters of Kenya’s history. These differences, however, did not mar our working relationship whenever our political paths crossed. In 2002, when journalist Denis Kodhe invited me to the Liberal Democratic Party, I extended similar invitation to Raila to join me in the party. Many in the political world have assumed that Raila was the founder of LDP. It is important that I clear this misconception even as I add that our entry into LDP turned it into a formidable party at that time.
Although Raila and I served in the Moi and Kibaki governments, we were not that close even as we sat in the same Cabinet. Our first serious encounter was when we became teammates in LDP and later in creating the Orange Movement after the defeat of the 2005 referendum. We were united against the Wako draft constitution and against tribal hegemony and injustice in our country. By 2002, I was ready to run for the presidency. By the time I was inviting Raila to join me in LDP, Moi was determined to install Uhuru as his heir apparent. I had spent 13 years serving as Kanu’s Organising Secretary and I knew when it was time to bid the party goodbye. I had observed and seen the tricks that Kanu could play on its leaders. I had watched the party eat its own children. I could not wait to be destroyed, literally and figuratively. So when I decided to leave the party, I knew there was no turning back and was prepared to run for the presidency.
My first serious run in with Raila happened during the Kanu-NDP merger ahead of the 2002 elections. The merger saw the creation of four positions of vice chairman that were contested by politicians from four regions; Coast, Central, Western and Eastern.
I knew that as the parties merged, Raila was positioning himself for the country’s leadership. As he did so, he placed several obstacles in my path. For instance, both Raila and Moi campaigned hard for John Harun Mwau and Joe Nyaga, two politicians from my Eastern region, to oppose me at the March 2002 Kanu polls held at the Moi Sports Complex in Kasarani. Nyaga withdrew from the race. Uhuru had no challenger because there was no Kanu in Central Province. Musalia Mudavadi of Western had a challenger in Cyrus Jirongo. Katana Ngala was also unchallenged for the Coast slot.
Before the Kasarani meeting, I met Raila at the Norfolk Hotel to ask him to prevail on his friend Mwau to step down. He had no specific answer. When the D-day came, my name was proposed and seconded. Mwau’s name was proposed but he had no one to second him. My impression then was that Moi and Raila worked hard to curtail my leadership ambitions. And for Moi, it went back longer than 2002. I remember Moi telephoning me one evening in January 1998, after he had finalised his Cabinet, to tell me: “Stephen I would have given you something better, but you Kambas have let me down because you did not vote as in 1992. I have however allocated you the Education docket but with something else on top.” Three minutes later, the news of the appointment went on air. In my mind I thought Moi had wanted to appoint me Vice President but must have been prevailed upon by my political adversaries to use the Kamba voting pattern as an excuse. So he named me Minister for Education and Manpower Development. The latter docket is what he was referring to when he was talking about “something else on top”.
I was the first signatory for the LDP while Kibaki was the first signatory for NAK. We held tough negotiations with Kibaki but he completely refused to have me as his running mate. He said he had promised the Vice Presidency to the Luhya community and he could therefore not change his mind. We therefore agreed that Kibaki would run for the presidency while Michael Wamalwa and I would take up two Vice President’s positions. Raila was to get the Prime Minister’s slot that would also be created. We thereafter signed the now infamous LDP/NAK memorandum of understanding. Political bad faith was exemplified by the manner in which Kibaki allies subsequently trashed this agreement. The extra VP slot was not created and neither did Raila get his premiership.
The trouble with Kenyan politics is lack of values and principles. I believe that for one to be a true nationalist or patriot, one must have certain basic beliefs and commitments. Kenyans believe that politics is a dirty game and there is no honesty, truth and faithfulness. That only those who are conniving, cunning and liars can prosper. I do not think it has to be like that. Until leaders learn to sacrifice, cast away self-centredness and selfishness, greed and lust for money, it will be difficult to provide Kenya with the kind of leadership it deserves. Before the MoU was trashed, we agreed on which ministries we would each pick. Raila chose Roads, Public Works and Housing, Saitoti chose Planning while I picked Foreign Affairs. My key motivation was to complete the Somalia and Sudan peace negotiations. Months after NARC came to power, Wamalwa, who had been named VP died. Raila then failed to help me pile pressure on Kibaki to honour the MoU and appoint the other Vice President to his rightful position. He seemed satisfied with his position. I saw this coming. Before Wamalwa’s death, I was on a presidential flight from Maputo in the company of Dr. Chris Murungaru, the minister for Internal Security and one of the powers behind the Kibaki throne then, and Dr. Dan Gikonyo, the president’s personal doctor. During our inflight conversation, Murungaru made what I considered a most unfortunate statement. He told me: “Steve, our friend in London (Wamalwa) is not making it so let us give his slot to Moody Awori to hold it till 2007 when you can become Kibaki’s running mate. Forget about it for now.”
I was so infuriated. I told him: “Chris, please stop playing God.”
I eventually travelled to the UN conference in New York after Wamalwa’s death. Cabinet colleagues began jostling for his position. The letter and the spirit of the MoU were very clear that I would be appointed Vice President. I expected that in my absence, Raila would be my advocate just in case Kibaki showed signs of reneging on the agreement. This he was unable to do. Awori was given the job just as Murungaru had stated.
In 2005, we were still pushing the agenda of the new Constitution. A small clique of politicians from Central Province coalesced around Kibaki. Murungaru, Justice Minister Kiraitu Murungi and others began asking Kibaki why he signed the MoU in the first place. Raila and I were gradually isolated and excluded from Kibaki’s affairs. When the Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), Samuel Kivuitu, unveiled the “Banana” and “Orange” as symbols of “YES” and “NO” for the referendum, I was excited that we got the best fruit; the Orange.
We thus started the Orange Democratic Movement soon after defeating the Banana campaign. However, we had trouble registering ODM. We had to mobilise street demos and pile pressure on the government through the media to eventually register ODM Kenya as a political party. Raila and I were both ambitious politicians angling for the presidency. So naturally, there was a lot of rivalry and suspicion in the movement. No one wanted to be seen to be endorsing the other.
Raila worked hard in his portfolio as minister for Roads. One day, he was in Voi inspecting roads when he called me. I recall him telling me on the phone: “Steve, I have been called by the president. He has said that he has made some adjustments in the Cabinet but will not relieve anybody of his duties.” Raila retained his portfolio although the Housing docket was hived off. I was taken to the ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. This was the last nail in the coffin that was the MoU.
Early 2007, all initial opinion polls showed that I was the man most likely to defeat Kibaki. I expected Raila to back me but it did not happen. I recall former MP for Kisumu West Ken Nyagudi telling me: “Things have changed. Raila wants this thing for himself.” This led to a lot of animosity from the Orange party. At a public rally at Khadija Gardens in Mombasa, I was heckled by hired youths brandishing hammers in what had been planned to be a humiliating afternoon for me. I asked the crowd: “When did we change our symbol from the orange to the hammer?” After this rally, I knew that my comradeship with Raila had come to an end and the fallout was acrimonious. My advisors came up with what we called Operation Miliki Chama (Own the party). ODM Kenya had to be preserved with the registered officials; Dan Maanzo, Lillian Aluga and Abraham Chepkonga as Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary General respectively. Raila was then forced to take over a splinter party registered by lawyer Mugambi Imanyara.
From the very beginning, unity in ODM had been elusive. The movement’s elation at winning the November 2005 constitutional referendum was short-lived. All of us in leadership had strong presidential ambitions. Thus, jostling for the party’s presidential ticket started earlier than was the case in the other parties. With the initial unity of purpose provided by the referendum campaigns fast dissipating, the fragile coalition delicately held through 2006.
Political analysts predicted the status quo would be drastically shaken as key players repositioned themselves in readiness for the coming General Election. Uhuru Kenyatta was the first to leave ODM, leading his party, Kanu, out of the movement in July 2007 and endorsing Kibaki’s re-election bid. The following month, differences between Raila and I reached a point of no return. At the core of our fallout was our mutual mistrust and disagreement on matters of principle. I moved out of LDP to the Labour Party of Kenya (LPK) and through it I eventually wrestled control of ODM Kenya from the Raila-led faction. Some of my most trusted friends and allies decamped from LDP to LPK with me. Among them were senior Kamba politicians: David Musila, Mutula Kilonzo and Johnson Muthama.
Until then LPK, under Dr Julia Ojiambo’s leadership, had been a relatively inconspicuous junior partner in ODM-K. LDP and Kanu were the big players in the movement. My entry into LPK phenomenally enhanced the party’s status and elevated it into the mix as far as the 2007 presidential election was concerned. Until August 2007, I vied for outright leadership of ODM Kenya with Ojiambo who persisted in her efforts to become the party’s flag bearer at the presidential election. Indeed Ojiambo had made her intention clear by launching her presidential vision in February 2007, long before I decamped to LPK. On August 31, 2007, I clinched the ODM Kenya presidential ticket at Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani and Julia became my running mate. Raila was endorsed as the ODM flag bearer at the same venue the following day.
As soon as I severed links with Raila, Charity Ngilu began to warm up to him. The shift was precipitated by Ngilu’s brief arrest and arraignment in court at the beginning of August for allegedly orchestrating the escape of political activist Ann Njogu from Nairobi’s Central Police Station. The High Court in Nairobi ended up ruling that Ngilu’s arrest had been illegal and set her free. Ngilu’s lawyer told the press that she had not aided an escape but was only concerned that Njogu’s injuries had not been attended to. The lawyer revealed that Njogu had been handed over to the police by the Nairobi Hospital a day after she was taken there. Relations between Ngilu and Kibaki had for a while been in steady decline. The arrest proved the last straw. Not long after the incident, Ngilu dared Kibaki to come clean over her humiliation and intimidation. She also defiantly declared that she would not resign as a minister. She blamed her harassment by police on then Internal Security minister, John Michuki, who she accused of turning the country into a police state.
On October 5, 2007 Ngilu declared her support for the Orange Democratic Movement and also endorsed its presidential candidate, Raila Odinga. She even compared Raila to South Africa’s iconic former president, Nelson Mandela. She accused Kibaki’s government of failing the people of Kenya and losing sight of its original vision for the country. Her endorsement of Raila notwithstanding, Ngilu said she would remain in government and serve out her appointment as minister. However, that plan was thwarted by Kibaki when he sacked her on October 6. Later that month, Raila announced that Ngilu had joined ODM’s top organ -the Pentagon. Other members of the Pentagon were: Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Najib Balala and Joseph Nyaga.
Despite supporting Raila’s presidential bid, Ngilu made it clear that she would maintain Narc’s independence and ensure that the party fielded its own parliamentary and civic candidates. The ODM leadership embraced her stance and proceeded to use NARC to undermine ODM-K in its Ukambani stronghold.
Copyright: Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, 2016