From 1992 to 2013, a Kenyan political saga
Posted Wednesday, February 6 2013 at 02:00
- Democracy on a platter: Kenya’s political trajectory is hinged on the Second Liberation of the 1990s, which agitated for the end of single party rule and the oxymoron called single-party democracy. The ‘Young Turks’ served to advance that ideology with varying degrees of success
With Raila Odinga (Cord) and Paul Muite (Safina) vying for presidency, will this year’s elections be a defining moment for the Young Turks who fought in the second liberation?
While many are running for various seats in the counties, hoping to take a front position in the first government of the Second Republic, most of the seven elders who spearheaded the campaign for the return of multi-partyism under the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford) in the late 1980s and the 1990s have since gone to their maker.
They include Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Masinde Muliro, Martin Shikuku, Philip Gachoka, and Salim Ndamwe.
If they were alive, they would be watching these elections with curiosity.
Is the hour of the Young Turks — derived from Mustafa Kamal, the founder of modern Turkey who led a liberation revolt in his country — finally here?
It started in earnest after the much discredited 1988 mlolongo (queue-voting) elections and grew into a monster under Moi’s dictatorial Kanu government.
In a small bar in a building called Mitugi in Nairobi’s Dagoretti, politician George Moseti Anyona from Kisii would meet his friends.
An intellectual educated at Alliance High School before heading to Makerere, Anyona (now deceased) and his peers planned a political party to challenge Kanu as they sat at Mitugi. It was said that they planned a coup d’état, albeit without arms.
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s advanced age and experience in playing peerage politics with President Moi prior to independence became an asset. But Moi would not go for him for fear of repercussions were he to die in prison and instead targeted the younger politicians, whom he regarded as Jaramogi’s spanner boys.
Anyona and his lecturer friends, Edward Oyugi, Maina wa Kinyati, Mukaru Ng’ang’a, and Katana Mkangi were detained before Anyona could announce the formation of the party in which Jaramogi was to be the leader.
But Charles Rubia and Kenneth Matiba, former ministers in Moi’s government, pulled the trigger by calling a historic press conference at the Hilton Hotel after the botched 1988 elections, demanding the re-introduction of multi-partyism.
They did what was at the time viewed as diabolical by advocating a repeal of the then Section 2(a) of the old Constitution that made Kanu the sole party by law.
They pointed out that Kanu had become intolerant by expelling dissenting members. Rubia and Matiba were expelled, like many others, on flimsy reasons such as arrogance, opposing maendeleo (development), and questioning party actions.
The two were bold enough to fire the first salvo for the second liberation. Their single bullet, for which they were detained, flowered into the struggle that played out in street riots, detentions, and sustained pressure for the restoration of democracy.
Ajuma Jaramogi Oginga Odinga
The father of Raila Amolo Odinga played a pivotal role in the second liberation. He dared the Kanu government by forming an opposition party “illegally”, marshalled public support to agitate for democratic space, and openly criticised the Kanu regime at a time when nobody would dare to raise a finger.
He became a father-figure to the opposition as others continued to sing “Kanu ni baba na mama” (Kanu is father and mother).
Jaramogi has been referred to as the doyen of opposition politics in Kenya, right from founding President Jomo Kenyatta’s era.