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SIX MISTAKES JARAMOGI ODINGA DID AND DP RUTO IS REPEATING

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This year’s Madaraka Day presidential speech was loaded with quotes from books by those who saw first-hand the story of early independent Kenya unfold. President Uhuru Kenyatta quoted from books by Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya and Jaramogi Odinga.

But there is one book he didn’t quote because it isn’t available—and would have been uncomfortable to the person seated next to him. The book tells why Mzee Jomo Kenyatta fell out with his deputy Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a story with striking resemblance to the ongoing falling-out between the President and his Deputy William Ruto.

I like journalists because they write exactly what they see. One of my favourites was first US ambassador to Kenya, William Attwood. By the way, there is something about journalists appointed US envoys to Kenya. Remember the story of one Smith Hempstone?

When he was deployed as ambassador in Nairobi, Attwood, like Hempstone years later, never forgot his first calling — journalism — and always carried a notebook.

On quitting diplomatic service, he made use of notes made over time and wrote a book, The Reds and the Blacks. For his part, Hempstone wrote The Rogue Ambassador. Unfortunately, the two books are not available to Kenyans. Attwood’s was banned by the Kenyan government while Hempstone’s was removed from the bookshops courtesy of a gag order by the High Court.

It is regrettable the books are not available because they contain crucial history on political intrigues that made Kenya and keep repeating themselves.

Below is Ambassador Attwood’s account of six goofs made by Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, which saw him fall out with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. They are similar to the ones (being) made by the sitting Deputy President William Ruto, leading to a stand-off with his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

1. Underestimating the boss

Jaramogi’s first mistake, writes Ambassador Attwood, was to think his boss, Mzee Kenyatta, was perhaps too old and somehow senile to effectively run the country. He says in the book: “At public functions, he (Jaramogi) took pains to be seen and photographed at Kenyatta’s side, properly distinct in his distinctive Chinese-style pyjama suit and waving his flywhisk like Mzee’s understudy.

So convincingly did he play the role that the Russians and Chinese, looking ahead and figuring Kenyatta was becoming senile, decided to make Odinga (Jaramogi) their man in Kenya….  But Kenyatta was by no means senile as they were led to believe.”

State House insiders say DP Ruto made a similar mistake. They say he thought his boss was a happy-go-lucky chap, perhaps a “spoilt brat” born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Ruto’s camp apparently viewed him as someone who wouldn’t have the passion to get immersed in the nuts and bolts of running a country, let alone get so consumed by the urge to leave a distinct legacy.

He was shocked to belatedly learn that beneath the carefree outer veneer, the President is a hard-nosed player and as stealthy and lethal as they come. In assessing his boss, the DP would have been well advised to read words by Prof Makau Mutua in the Sunday Nation of October 7, 2012: “There is nothing that shows Mr Kenyatta lives in a thoughtless utopia. He is a cold, calculating political animal. He knows what will — and what won’t — fly.”

2. Wanting to look like the boss 

This may sound petty or sycophantic, but the truth is that, in power politics, it is advisable not to want to look like the boss, even sartorially. It is like flying so close to the sun when your wings are made of wax.

In his book, Ambassador Attwood wrote: “Jaramogi saw himself as Kenyatta’s equal. Like Kenyatta, he carried a cane and a flywhisk, and gave Kenyatta a beaded Luo cap like the one he wore.”

In DP Ruto’s case, many will remember him and his boss appearing in same red neckties, white-shirts and holding hands.

We saw a repeat act on Monday’s  Madaraka Day celebrations at State House, even though the President knew he would have the DP’s goose for lunch the following day during a Jubilee Parliamentary Group meeting.

State House sources say in those good early days, the Ruto team even had “spies” inside State House to inform him on who met with the Head of State and what was discussed. The boss woke up on the bad side early one morning and kicked out of State House anybody suspected to be the DP’s “good boy”.

3. Putting more premium on power of money

On Jaramogi’s deep pockets and  slush funds, Ambassador Attwood wrote: “Odinga never seemed short of funds. Home Affairs Minister Moi publicly declared that Odinga had personally received more than $1 million from Communist sources for political action. What was obvious was that his supporters were well heeled, drove new cars and voted as a bloc. No one was quite sure of Odinga’s strength in Parliament. The big question was: How many had been ‘bought’?”

In the case of DP Ruto, it is an open secret that he sits on a mountain of disposable cash. He doesn’t hide it and donates millions in cash. It is also well known that many MPs in his tow are equally loaded with cash attributed to the DP, directly or otherwise.

The lingering question from the DP’s adversaries has been: What is the source of his big money? He says it comes from “hustling”. But he gets irritated when asked to say exactly what “hustling” he does, how much it earns him and that he share his Kenya Revenue Authority tax returns.

4. Trusting in numbers he didn’t have

Much as Jaramogi thought he had the numbers and could challenge the boss to bring it on if he so wished, he discovered reality was much different once the chips were called and numbers counted. The first test came, records Ambassador Attwood, when an amended Constitution that had watered down powers of the vice president was to be voted on.

“The new Constitution was submitted to Parliament. Odinga’s supporters could not oppose it publicly, as supposedly loyal members of Kanu, but hoped to quietly defeat it in Parliament. They failed. One reason was that Kenyatta had persuaded opposition leaders to dissolve their parties and join Kanu, which substantially increased his parliamentary strength.”

The next opportunity, writes Ambassador Attwood, came when nominated MP and key Odinga strategist, Pio Gama Pinto, was assassinated in 1965. In those days it was the party (Kanu) MPs who directly voted on who would be nominated as the replacement.

“Pinto’s death gave an opportunity to test strengths in Parliament. In a surprise move, a Kenyatta man was elected by a 71-34 margin. Odinga discovered that some of the people he thought he had ‘bought’ turned out to have only been rented.”

5. Daring the boss in his face

 Loaded with lots of cash from the Communist bloc, and with a substantive political constituency, especially in Luo Nyanza, Jaramogi thought he could take on his boss, reckoned Attwood.

“Their (the Communists) support both incited and enabled Odinga to challenge Kenyatta’s leadership first indirectly and finally openly,” he wrote.

Attwood records an incident when Jaramogi declined to be at the airport to see off the boss, who was travelling to London.

“Kenyatta’s first repudiation of Odinga came when he announced that (Joseph) Murumbi would be Acting Prime Minister while he was at the Commonwealth Conference in London. Odinga, who had led his backers and supporters to believe he was No 2 in the Kenyan hierarchy, was so outraged that he refused to go to the airport to see Kenyatta off—a characteristic display of temper that did him no good. It not only drew attention to the snub, but promptly stirred rumours that Odinga had been plotting to seize power in Kenyatta’s absence.”

In DP Ruto’s case, what the sheng generation calls madharau ndogo ndogo began when the President appointed Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to chair ministerial committees on implementation of government programmes, yet DP Ruto had proclaimed from the rooftops that he is the principal assistant to the boss.

Not long after Matiang’i’s appointment, the DP wondered in a public meeting: “How come some person (don’t ask me who) is telling us not to prepare for 2022, a date we know, yet we prepare for Christ’s coming on a date we don’t know?” My sources told me curse words were used when the tape was played and translated at the House on the Hill.

A more recent show of defiance came three weeks ago, when the President convened a Jubilee senators’ meeting at State House. The DP not only boycotted the meeting — his seat had been brought to the venue — but supposedly told his supporters to keep off as well.

6. Forgetting the Boss has the ‘Deep State’

In a showdown with the boss, Jaramogi may have overlooked the fact that Mzee Kenyatta had the Deep State in his corner.

“There wasn’t much Odinga could do without Kenyatta knowing about it. The police and the Special Branch (now National Intelligence Service) were directly responsible to Kenyatta. Their orders were to keep an eye on Jaramogi, and they did.”

The Ambassador goes on: “The first indication I heard from Kenyatta that he didn’t trust Jaramogi was when he called me over to inquire about America’s financing of Kenyan politicians… ‘But what about Odinga’s subsidies from the Chinese and Russians?’ I asked him. ‘I know about them,’ said Kenyatta. ‘I have already called in their ambassadors and told them to stop’.”

On another occasion, Ambassador Attwood invited Jaramogi for dinner at his residence.

“This time he came with an aide, but also a carload of bodyguards who we knew to have been planted to report on him. So we had extra mouths to feed.”

Yet on another occasion, Jaramogi sneaked to the Tanzanian border to meet a contact from the Chinese embassy in Dar es Salaam, which was the conduit for his secret slush funds. The intelligence leaked the news to the media. When Jaramogi denied it and threatened to sue, the intelligence rubbed it in by leaking the time and the number plates of the cars Jaramogi and his contact came in, and made it known to the VP that next they would release pictures secretly taken by the intelligence.

In the present case, when addressing the Jubilee PG meeting on Tuesday, President Kenyatta reportedly charged angrily: “You badly talk about me and you think I don’t hear? I have the intelligence and I get all that. Even if you don’t respect me, at least respect the office I occupy.”

Earlier on, Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe had told a vernacular FM radio station that “the DP is clever only by half because all his phones and those of his schemers are monitored. His boss gets daily briefs on his every move”.

Indeed, it can be tough being DP!

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