It is a much-storied political dynasty rivalry, but the history of the love-hate relationship between the Kenyatta and Odinga families keeps turning new chapters with the latest instalment playing out in the ongoing political standoff with a remarkable sense of deja vu.
Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his political rival Mr Raila Odinga once again re-lived the duel that their fathers – founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga – started more than half a century ago.
The parallels between the contest of the fathers and sons range from the mundane – such as the similarity in ages – to the profound, like how the conflict is shaping national politics and the country’s future.
Consider this interesting fact: In terms of age, Uhuru and Raila find themselves on the opposite sides of where their fathers were at the peak of their political duels.
Jaramogi was 55 when he resigned as vice-president in 1966 while Jomo was 75.
More than a half century later, the age factor is flipped: Raila is now 73 – roughly the same age Jomo was in 1966 – while Uhuru is 56, just a year older than Jaramogi was at the time of the fallout with the founding President.
What has remained constant in these dynastic duels is that the balance of power has firmly remained in favour of the Kenyattas.
Of more importance however is how the two generations of the Kenyattas have handled the challenge to their authority by the Odingas and how this has shaped Kenya’s history.
In this regard, Uhuru has proved that, indeed, the apple does not fall far from the tree.
The move by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to declare National Resistance Movement (NRM) – associated with Raila’s Nasa – an illegal group mirrors the outlawing of Jaramogi’s Kenya People’s Union (KPU) by Jomo 47 years ago.
After resigning as Vice President, Jaramogi formed KPU, which became the official opposition to Jomo’s ruling Kanu party.
However, the State employed every trick in the book to harass the party’s followers.
Security agencies monitored the movements of KPU officials, limited their international travel by withdrawing their passports, and fired civil servants perceived to be supportive of the party.
Jomo himself led the onslaught against KPU, branding it a clandestine organisation.
“If anybody dares to spoil the party that fought for uhuru (independence), he will be dealt with firmly. We shall crush him into powder,” Jomo warned at a public rally.
Following the deaths and chaos that broke out on October 25, 1969 between KPU supporters and Jomo’s security guards during a presidential visit to Kisumu, Jomo moved swiftly to bring Jaramogi to heel.
Two days after the incident, Jaramogi was placed under house arrest for a year and KPU was banned five days later, thus returning Kenya to a one-party State.
In efforts to rein in Jaramogi, Jomo amassed sweeping powers that made him an imperial president, a later source of many of Kenya’s ills.
The situation has changed considerably from Jomo’s days, with the enactment in 2010 of a robust Constitution that protects freedoms.
But events of recent days suggest that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Uhuru has waged a campaign against the Opposition, media, Judiciary and the civil society, which he accuses of unfairly targeting him and working on behalf of his opponents.
Commenting on Nasa’s plans to “swear in” Raila, Attorney-General Githu Muigai cautioned that it was “high treason”.
Last week, the government arrested several Nasa MPs who played key roles in Raila’s largely symbolic “swearing-in” on January 30.
It remains to be seen whether Uhuru will carry out his AG’s threat and detain the Nasa leader, just like his father Jomo did in 1969.
The conflict between Jomo and Jaramogi took place under the shadow of the Cold War pitting the West against the communist USSR.
The two Kenyan protagonists became pawns in the global struggle for domination by the two superpowers.
While Jomo eschewed communism in favour of capitalism, Jaramogi, who had been a darling of the West before independence, threw in his lot with the Soviets.
One of the peripheral players in the Cold War was China, a communist state with its own designs in Africa.
A large but poor country at the time, China still vied with the Russians and the Americans for influence in Kenya.
Jomo, with the help of the US, moved to limit China’s support for Jaramogi.
Kanu mandarins termed the “Red Dragon’s” embassy in Nairobi “Agent No1 of subversive activities”.
But 50 years later, things have changed. Today, China is a global superpower.
While Jomo turned his back on China, his son Uhuru has fully embraced the Asian giant and it is now shaping his legacy.
It has already done so by delivering Uhuru’s first term signature project: the standard gauge railway, whose first phase between Mombasa and Nairobi was built in a record four years at a cost of at least Sh375 billion of Chinese loans.
During a state visit to Beijing in May last year, Uhuru described China as a true friend of Kenya.
“In the spirit of shared prosperity and friendship, I wish to assure Your Excellency (Chinese President Xi Jinping) of our desire to co-operate closely with you, to build an even stronger strategic partnership,” he said.
To cement their new-found friendship, last month President Kenyatta hosted Communist Party of China (CPC) top brass at State House, where it was agreed that the Chinese officials would train Jubilee Party on “democracy”, grassroots mobilisation and party management.
However, the geopolitical shifts brought about by the decline and eventual disintegration of the USSR and the end of the Cold War forced the Odingas to abandon their communist route and embrace the West who supported the push to end Kanu’s one-party rule.
Kenya restored multipartyism in 1991.
Neighbouring Tanzania is another country that has been at the heart of a dynastic political tussle.
The Kenyattas have always regarded successive governments in Tanzania with suspicion.
It’s not a secret that the current Jubilee administration enjoys a strained relationship with the government of President John Magufuli, a family friend of the Odingas.
During the 2015 General Election in Tanzania, Jubilee ill-disguised preference for the opposition’s Edward Lowassa of Chadema party that eventually lost.
When Raila suggested in a speech in the lead-up to the January 30 “swearing-in” that forming a government abroad was an option if the situation inside was not conducive, many thought he meant Tanzania.
In short, there hasn’t been any love lost between Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.
On December 2016, Government Spokesman Erick Kiraithe said two neighbouring countries were trying to destabilise Kenya.
It was widely perceived that one of the two countries was Tanzania.
“Investigations into recent political activity have yielded intelligence to the effect that there are individuals within the country who are working with two neighbouring countries to subvert the government and create conditions of instability, insecurity, lawlessness and strife,” Mr Kiraithe said.
These were largely the same allegations that Jomo’s government made against Tanzania in the 1960s.
On April 1966, the media reported that Jaramogi had met Sheikh Hussein, a prominent Tanzanian businessman with alleged powerful political connections there, to plot against Jomo.
Jaramogi was also accused of having met two Tanzanian ministers, Sheikh Abdul Rahma Mohammed Babu, minister for Commerce and Co-operatives, and Mr Michael Kamaliza, Minister for Labour.
Dar es Salaam denied the meetings took place.
The mutual suspicions between the two neighbours was one of the factors that eventually led to the disintegration of the first East African Community in 1977.
During the fight for independence, Jaramogi, though not a collaborator, was perceived by the British colonial government as a safe, rational bet whom they could do business with, rather than Jomo.
Described by pre-independence colonial governor Sir Patrick Renison as “the leader to darkness, death and destruction, Jomo had been jailed in 1952 on trumped-up charges as the leader of the Mau Mau independence movement.
The Britons were surprised, therefore, when Jaramogi turned down the offer to be Kenya’s first president, declaring that “Kenyatta is my next God”, vowing that there would be no uhuru (independence) while Mzee was in prison.
But when Jomo’s son, Uhuru, was indicted in 2010 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his alleged involvement in the planning of the 2007/2008 violence, Jaramogi’s son, Raila, did not defend him as his father had done to Jomo.
“The guilt or innocence of suspected perpetrators is proved through trial, where the facts of the case are examined,” Raila said in 2012.
It is believed that the strong anti-imperialist sentiment aroused by ICC cases against Uhuru, his deputy William Ruto and four other Kenyans stirred the Jubilee support base and propelled them to the presidency in 2013. The Kenyan cases eventually collapsed.
At this point, it is worth considering another interesting fact: The Kalenjin community has been at the centre of the political battles between the Kenyattas and the Odingas, and their respective Kikuyu and Luo ethnic support bases.
Following Jaramogi’s resignation in 1966, Jomo appointed Daniel Moi VP and stuck with him for the next 12 years.
This was despite a cabal around the President, often referred to as the “Kiambu Mafia”, scheming to prevent Moi from automatically taking over upon Jomo’s death.
Moi returned the favour by fishing Uhuru from relative obscurity and thrusting him into the political limelight when he named him his preferred successor.
Although Uhuru lost the December 2002 presidential elections, he had stamped his imprimatur in national politics.
But it would take the support of another Kalenjin, Mr William Ruto, 10 years later, to actualise Uhuru’s presidential dreams.
Many political analysts think that the end of Uhuru’s term in 2022 will mark an end to the Kenyatta-Odinga dynastic battles, assuming that Raila opts out of the race as he has suggested in his previous public statements.
The death of Raila’s firstborn son Fidel in 2015 robbed the Odinga family of an obvious heir to their political dynasty.
Rosemary, Raila’s second born who dropped out of the race for Kibra constituency parliamentary seat last year over health concerns, is often seen as the most politically savvy of Raila’s children.
Of the Kenyattas, none of Uhuru’s scions are thought to be cut for the rough and tumble of political life — at least for now.
Work on Kenya-Somalia border wall suspended | Al Jazeera English
Kenya has suspended construction of a 700-kilometre border wall after confrontations between security officers and people from a nearby Somali town. Locals say the partially-built wall has helped prevent al-Shabab fighters from crossing into Kenya. Hundreds of people have died in attacks by the armed group, but other areas remain unsafe. Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi reports from Mandera, on the Kenyan-Somali border.
Work on Kenya-Somalia border wall suspended
DAILY NATION — The much publicised security fence on the Kenya-Somalia border has temporarily stopped to allow further negations between the two states.
This was revealed on Friday by Mandera Governor Ali Roba and his Gedo counterpart Mohamed A. Mohamed from Somalia.
While on a meet-the-people tour in the border towns of Mandera and Bulahawa, they said the two countries have agreed to temporarily stop the project that would separate the two towns.
According to the two, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo will soon meet to agree on a few “thorny issues” before the project proceeds.
Governors Ali Roba and Mohamed M. Mohamed.
Governor Roba said the decision was reached to quell the rising tension among people who live near the border.
“There is a lot of negative propaganda particularly on the Somalia side with respect to border security programme but we are here to confirm that all that is false,” said Mr Roba.
He said locals on the Somalia side of the border have been made to believe that the fence would lead to their eviction and the demolition of their houses.
The Mandera governor said consultations have been ongoing for the past two-and-a-half years over the security programme initiated by the Kenyan government.
The construction has been slow since its inception in 2015 because the local community has to be involved at every stage.
“We are here as neighbouring governors to inform the public that the project has been halted so that a solution for the houses lying directly on the border can be found,” he said.
This, he said, was agreed on during a meeting last week attended by North Eastern Regional Coordinator Mohamud Saleh in Mandera Town.
“I can confirm the contractor has been asked to demobilise temporarily pending engagement by the two national governments to discuss a solution in an amicable way,” he said.
Gedo Governor Mohamed said Presidents Kenyatta and Farmajo had already talked on the phone and agreed to meet soon.
“Our message here is that the construction stops until the two national governments come together to agree on some issues on the table,” he said.
According to Governor Mohamed, issues to be discussed include the reason for the project, its effects on daily activities and the fate of the homes that would be affected.
Mr Mohamed wants the Kenyan government to consider the social interaction of the communities along the border before separating them with a wall.
“The people living here have a long history of depending on one another and separating them needs negotiations to solve the problem,” he said.
Sixty-four homes have been marked for demolition along the border to allow the completion of the project, which is supervised by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) engineering department.
Kenya announced it would build a security wall to prevent Al-Shabaab militants from getting into the country, following the deadly April 2, 2015 attack at Garissa University College that left 148 people dead. Most of those killed were students.
The project was later changed to a wire fencing with a parallel trench. Eight kilometres have been completed.
However, the residents on the Somalia side of the border opposed the project and demanded to be compensated for their houses that are in the no man’s land. They have been marked for demolition.
They also asked the Kenyan Government to accept those who have Kenyan ID cards to settle in Mandera.
Some demands that the Kenyan Government is reluctant to implement include allowing students from Somalia to learn freely in Mandera.
Residents on both sides of the border have said the fence would disrupt business, social interactions and movement of livestock when herders search for pasture.
KENYA: Raila beaten as Miguna Miguna fights off citizenship nightmare
The pensive face of Nasa leader Raila Odinga as he helplessly watched security officers grab Miguna Miguna by the waist in a bid to force him out of the country on Monday night told it all.
The former prime minister’s reputation as a troubleshooter for his lieutenants was on the line, especially in the backdrop of the March 9 handshake between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta that was meant to build political bridges.
Despite what was agreed being a guarded secret between the two, opposition aides believe that rule of law was one of them. At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday night, however, Mr Miguna was on his own, forced to fight off his citizenship nightmare the brutal, bare-knuckle way.
Although Mr Miguna was not entirely blameless for the standoff — as he refused to have his Canadian passport stamped — there was hope as soon as Mr Odinga entered the airport that a solution would be found.
Mr Odinga did not speak to the media when he alighted from his car at 10.05pm. He ignored journalists’ questions and walked straight to Terminal 1E, where Mr Miguna was holed up alongside his lawyers James Orengo, John Khaminwa and Cliff Ombeta.
After a brief conversation with Mr Miguna, the former Prime Minister was soon on his phone. Owing to his new relationship with the President, it was assumed that he might have placed a call in the hope of securing the release of his friend-turned-foe-turned-friend.
But lawyer Nelson Havi, who was at the airport, told the Nation on Tuesday that Mr Odinga might have got into the act a bit late as the decision to re-deport Mr Miguna had been made five hours earlier, at about 3pm, after the fiery lawyer refused to surrender his Canadian passport.
“We believe that was the time the decision to take him back to Dubai was made,” he said yesterday, suggesting there had been a high level consultation within the government over the manner the lawyer was handled.
However, Mr Havi does not know at what level the decision to turn Mr Miguna back was made.
“What we know is that when it became clear that he would not surrender his Canadian passport, and that he was not ready to sign papers to get a visa, the decision to send him back was made,” he said.
Mr Miguna has been an acerbic critic of the Jubilee government, and his role in the January 30 ‘swearing in’ of Mr Odinga the point of no return with state agencies.
He was arrested and deported to Canada on February 9 as, the government claimed, he was not Kenyan since he had renounced his Kenyan citizenship in 1988.
His return on Monday at 2.30pm came less than 24 hours after Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga exchanged niceties at the Kenya Open golf tournament at Muthaiga Golf Club on Sunday, where they re-affirmed their desire to unite the country following last year’s disputed general election.
Mr Odinga’s arrival at the airport coincided with word that the State had deemed Mr Miguna an undocumented passenger, meaning he would be deported again to his adopted Canada, via Dubai, because he had used an Emirates flight to enter Kenya.
Sources at Kenya National Commission on Human Rights blamed the standoff on Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who, it was claimed, had issued orders that Mr Miguna should unquestioningly comply with the demands the immigration department was making.
Mr Orengo’s arrival at the airport a couple of hours before Mr Odinga was understood to be for the sole purpose of engaging Dr Matiang’i, while Mr Odinga’s entry into the melee was proof that the Dr Matiang’i route had borne no fruit.
Mr Odinga engaged in a short scuffle with the police before settling to make a call. As the Nasa leader talked on the phone, Mr Miguna attempted to dash out of the airport, his luggage well dangling from the baggage carrier, only to be stopped by three police officers who used their bodies to barricade the door.
300 POLICE OFFICERS
It is estimated that between 300 and 400 police officers were mobilised for the operation that would see Mr Miguna picked up, in full view of Mr Odinga, whisked away, and forced into the Emirates plane.
The flight had been delayed to ensure that the Kenya government’s unwanted visitor was taken back to where he had come from
A forlorn-looking Mr Odinga, sandwiched by his security detail, emerged from the terminal minutes later, defeated and angry. Again, he did not speak to the media.
“Mr Miguna has been whisked away by about 40 undercover police officers,” Mr Orengo briefed the media shortly afterwards. “He has been described as an undocumented passenger and forced into an Emirates flight.”
His briefing, however, was cut short by heavily armed police officers, and that was the last of orderly media engagements at the airport before everything went blank.
Mr Miguna spent the night at the airport, but his lawyers, journalists and friends were barred from seeing him on Tuesday.
More than 24 hours after landing on Kenyan soil, he was holed up at Terminal 2, where he had been transferred, ostensibly to minimise the image damage to Kenya at the international arrivals, and also to better contain him, the battering of journalists looking for him, and the team of lawyers seeking to secure his release.