Raila intellectuals angry with NGOs, diplomats and media

Pro-Raila Odinga intellectuals are accusing Western powers of funding the civil society movement and Kenya’s media in a plot to cut short the ODM leader’s political career.

“It seems these foreign interests don’t mind an openly concerted effort to mobilize a youth-initiated, well-funded, grassroots-based, gender-inclusive movement to stir rebellion against the Grand Coalition Government led by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga,” explains Dr. Job Obonyo.

Ongoing civic education in Shinyalu Constituency, where a by election will be held on August 27. Picture from the Jukwaa forum.

Ongoing civic education in Shinyalu Constituency, where a by election will be held on August 27. Picture from the Jukwaa forum.

Think tanks working for Prime Minister Raila Odinga are blaming the civil society, diplomats and the media for their candidate’s dwindling popularity. Convinced that their man is infallible, these intellectuals believe that outside forces are working to ensure that Raila never captures Kenya’s highest position. They specifically blame US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger and the Mars Group which is spearheading a campaign titled, “OTNOP”.

The think tanks are furious with civil society for preaching against the “three-piece” voting pattern or “party waves.” The three-piece pattern means that voters elect a councillor, Member of Parliament and a Presidential candidate from a single party regardless of the personal characteristics of the candidate. Civil society wants Kenyans to choose leaders based on a candidate’s viability rather than political party affiliation. Raila academicians see the tactic as a threat to ODM, which took advantage of the “three-piece” system in the 2007 General Elections.

Raila’s political history is characterized by three-piece party waves. First, it was FORD Kenya in 1992, then the National Development Party (NDP) in 1997 followed by the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) in 2002.

Raila’s think tanks are dominated by Marxists who were sympathetic to his father, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. As Vice President after Kenya’s independence from Britain, Jaramogi fell out with founding President Jomo Kenyatta due to his communist beliefs and ties to the Soviet Union. Kenyatta was more Westward looking and reconciliatory towards the departing British. There was a brief ideological tussle in the 1960s which culminated with Jaramogi in prison. Since then, Kenya has been openly pro-British and pro-United States, and supports the US-led War on Terror.

Kenya’s Marxists have blamed capitalism for the widening gap between rich and poor. They also criticize the capitalist system for neglecting low-productivity areas such as Northern and North Eastern Kenya. The 2007 election campaigns revived the ideological conflict of the 1960s, with Raila proposing political and economic reforms that were socialist in everything but name. President Mwai Kibaki, on the other hand, is a firm practitioner of the capitalist model of economic development.

On many occasions, Raila has talked of land redistribution and thereby earned the wrath of the propertied classes. Raila wants the government to control house rents and the prices of consumer goods. Indeed, Raila’s Lang’ata constituency has previously been the scene of rent riots after he called on landlords to cut rents by half. At the Kenyan Coast, Raila wants to take land from Arab owners for redistribution to Africans. More recently, Raila championed a government plan to provide subsidized maize to the poor but the plan did not succeed because the government lacks a retail distribution chain.

During the 2007 elections, Raila was criticized for planning to impoverish the rich instead of empowering the poor to generate wealth. This, say critics, is not the solution to inequality.

Raila’s intellectual wing has named the US Ambassador as the West’s pointman in its strategy for Kenya. “For the past year and a half, US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, has several times urged the Kenyan youth to mobilize ‘themselves’ and force the grand coalition government to bring reforms,” writes Dr Obonyo in the Jukwaa internet forum.

The pro Raila intelligentsia are convinced that Ranneberger wants a Colour Revolution similar to what happened in Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of NGOs and particularly student activists in organising creative nonviolent resistance. So far these movements have been successful in Serbia (the Bulldozer Revolution of 2000), in Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003), in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004), and Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution (2005).

In Kenya, Raila’s backers are accusing the Mars Group of undermining the Prime Minister. The Mars Group is running a Partnership for Change and has been distributing T-shirts labelled “OTNOP” (phonetically pronounced “OTPOR”). OTNOP means ‘Non Violent Resistance’ in Serbian – engaging grassroots folks on civic duty. OTNOP is currently teaching Kenyans to avoid the three-piece voting system, reject violence and refuse cash handouts. For this reason, OTNOP is seen in some quarters as a threat.

The Mars Group is associated with anti-corruption activist Mwalimu Mati. Last December, Mati was briefly detained for leading disruptions during Jamhuri Day celebrations and which greatly embarrassed President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Security services are convinced that Mati is inciting disaffection amongst members of the public and questioned him during his three day detention. It is interesting that Raila think tanks have swallowed what the security services have told them.

It is also interesting that both Raila and Kibaki are attacking the civil society and diplomats using language similar to former President Daniel arap Moi’s speeches in the 1990s. Back then, when Kibaki and Raila were in the opposition, Moi warned against Western powers funding civil society and opposition parties for seditious purposes. Kibaki and Raila rejected Moi’s arguments and fiercely championed independence of thought and association. Now, the tables have turned.

The Raila intelligentsia are still convinced that their man is popular. “Polls also show that Raila Odinga is overwhelmingly favoured to lead the country while the same NGOs keep blurting the trumpet sounds that Kibaki-and-Raila need to step down and allow change to happen,” writes Obonyo.

To prove their distaste for the activities of Ranneberger and the Mars Group, Raila academics have dismissed the Colour Revolutions as “fake.”

Click here to see Job Obonyo’s discussion on the Jukwaa website.

Click to read about the Partnership for Change on the Mars Group website.

4 Responses

  1. Bless you. Nice post


    Leadership daunts, but much more from a stormy night,
    For myriad are the fatalities,
    And the day begins from a cloud of insufferableness;
    Plentitude and greed,
    Sunshine and hunger,
    Ownership and pain,
    And together inundated into the national fate!

    And those who try to outdo
    Are quick to invoke treachery,
    Those who can’t admire invent names,
    Including “Uncircumcised mjaluo”, whatever that mean;
    Worse still,
    Even friends can’t get enough!

    One does not have to be as sage as Nelson Mandela,
    Nor as historic as Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill,
    Nor as famous as Obama,
    Probably not as scholarly as Woodrow Wilson;
    What is enough is to carry a leadership cross with dignity,
    Walking the mortal path exuding acceptance,
    Smearing the memory lane with bravery for humanity,
    And humility for God.

    For now I know!
    Raila has walked that lonely path.

  3. Interesting. Where can we find articles written by pro-Raila “academics”?

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