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Why Raila’s mock swearing-in leaves Nasa in disarray

The National Super Alliance (Nasa) probably wishes it had not gone through with the mock swearing in. The event was a huge anti-climax. But the aftermath has left Nasa shell-shocked, and stumbling around in utter confusion.

The whole charade produced some big losers. The first big loser is Nasa leader Raila Odinga himself. His legacy is in shreds. In time, the question he will probably be asking himself is how the supposed gallant fighter for the Constitution ended up trashing that very law for some very dubious benefit. After a crackdown on his lieutenants, he now realises it was a hollow gesture that will cost Nasa dearly.

No wonder his call for a new election. He ended up being boxed into an ethnic corner as a tribal chieftain. The crowds, organisers and animators were all drawn from his ethnic enclaves. The oath was administered by members of his community.

It was a very sad picture of a man who has painted himself as a leader who transcends ethnic cocoons. Yet, here he was, essentially being crowned a tribal leader. To his shock, other Nasa principals—Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula—gave the event a wide berth. Further, it was a big statement that most of his allies, including some governors from Luo Nyanza, boycotted.

No Wiper, ANC or Ford Kenya MPs bothered. Raila’s media apologists immediately kicked in to try and “rationalise” what happened. One columnist even tried to subvert the truth to purport that Raila’s abandonment by the other principals was part of “tactics.”

Good grief! His supporters were disappointed. The man was “sworn in” almost at night. A rushed 15-minute ceremony, no dignitaries, no judges, no trappings of power, no speech, oath placed on a student clipboard, a vandalised coat of arms.

From his house in Karen, and back there. Kalonzo emerged even a bigger loser. Not because of the media narrative about the disappointment of his supporters. He lost because he was browbeaten back into submission to Raila. He failed to follow through the great opportunity his defiance of Raila presented. On the day, he had even assumed the de facto leadership of the other principals.

His tame capitulation, including publicly breaking down in tears, must have broken the hearts of many of his supporters. Kenyans want leaders capable of taking charge, not shedding tears at podiums.

This was the moment he should have seized to provide an alternative leadership, and become the Moses for many Nasa supporters who know no other home, but are now completely disenchanted with Raila. He failed to seize it.

It’s probably gone forever. Worse, it has emboldened his critics. For some reason, Kalonzo is the sole target of ODM fanatics and the media. This is largely because he has made himself an easy touch.

The event was boycotted even by ODM governors and other Raila stalwarts—Charity Ngilu, Johnstone Muthama, Amason Kingi, his wife Ida, Boniface Khalwale, Wycliffe Oparanya et al—yet all the guns are trained on only one man. Kalonzo.

Too bad Kalonzo has no media capacity or propaganda machine, leaving him at the mercy of the hounds. The fact that the government withdrew the police from Uhuru Park thus ensuring there were no violent confrontations threw Raila and his henchmen completely off-balance.

Kalonzo has become their fall guy, and they are venting their frustrations on him with vengeance. The focus on Kalonzo also diverts attention from the many messes of the day. The media was completely exposed as partisan. In the run up to the day, they stoked the embers of violence.

One media house even proclaimed a day of conflict. They were sorely disappointed. On the day, they started incendiary coverage of the event before they were closed down. And when all the schemes to cause chaos collapsed, the media joined ODM in pouring vitriol on Kalonzo.

They are yet to condemn Raila and ODM for subversion, recklessness, and blatant disrespect for the rule of law. They have given saturation coverage to “violation of the constitutional rights” of ODM activists during the ongoing crackdown.

Yet, here they are, claiming that they are “independent,” and “impartial.” The lives of 45 million Kenyans are more important than the schemes of a few power-hungry conspirators. Some big winners emerged. First is President Uhuru Kenyatta.

By deciding his government would ensure no deaths on a day of extreme provocation, he won the respect of Kenyans of goodwill and the international community. Further, by refusing to be intimidated into “dialogue” through threats of swearing in, he called the bluff of Raila and exposed his underbelly. He has continued to ignore Raila’s tantrums, much to the latter’s chagrin.

His stature has risen. Another big winner is American ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec. The envoy has proved himself truly evenhanded. He worked very hard to try and stop the mock swearing in, warning Raila that not only would this be against the country’s Constitution, but also destroy his legacy.

He is likely to be viewed more favourably as an honest broker within the government that has long had misgivings about the rather too cosy relationship that has hitherto existed between Western envoys and Raila. Finally, one man emerged both a big winner and big loser.

Miguna Miguna. In one fell swoop, he has swept aside all pretenders to Raila’s throne as the Luo kingpin. No other Luo leader has elicited the type of passion Miguna seems to have generated across Luo-Nyanza. He is now all but heir apparent.

Indeed, one can imagine that he would easily win any governor race in Luo-Nyanza right now. Unfortunately, the other side of the coin is that the same antics earned him a one-way ticket back to Canada in slippers after the government deported him.

One can just imagine a sigh of relief among many of those pretenders to the throne. No wonder they are so quiet. A much-chastised Miguna will probably spend the twilight years of his life somewhere in Ontario musing about what might have been, as no plane will fly him back to Kenya. Writer can be reached at [email protected]

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