Peel back the mask Miguna wears, and get a man with delusions of grandeur

Monday July 16 2012

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (second left) Water Minister Charity Ngilu and former Agriculture Minister William Ruto at the retreat for the Permanent Committee of the Management of the Grand Coalition Government affairs at Kilaguni Lodge, in Tsavo. Photo/FILE

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (second left) Water Minister Charity Ngilu and former Agriculture Minister William Ruto at the retreat for the Permanent Committee of the Management of the Grand Coalition Government affairs at Kilaguni Lodge, in Tsavo. Photo/FILE 

By SARAH ELDERKIN

I have defended Miguna Miguna in the past, both in print and in private – at least, it was meant to be private, until Miguna broke an undertaking of confidence and made a private communication public.

That is typical of the Miguna we have unfortunately come to know – a person with deeply worrying issues and insufficient personal morality to restrain him from selling his friends down the road, let alone to prevent his embarking on a campaign of all-consuming personal vengeance filled with hatred.

Many of us, including Raila Odinga – the object of Miguna’s poisonous wrath, have tried hard to save Miguna in the past. Ultimately, in the Prime Minister’s office, it became impossible to keep Miguna and to protect him from himself.

It is deeply sad that a man with a good brain should be tortured and destroyed by emotions he cannot control, so that he ends up a victim at the mercy of his own self-destructive inner turmoil.

Other responses to charges in the Miguna book, Peeling Back the Mask, will follow this. But first, we need to peel back the mask that Miguna Miguna himself wears. Let us examine the untold Miguna Miguna story.

Anyone who has watched Miguna on television will have seen the staring eyes, the jabbing finger, the overbearing ranting and raving. But it was Justice Mohamed Warsame who referred very succinctly to Miguna’s inner turmoil, in dismissing, on December 15, 2011, the case Miguna had brought challenging his August 4, 2011, suspension from the Prime Minister’s office.

In his judgement, Warsame made some interesting observations about Miguna. Speaking of his own perceptions (not issues raised by lawyers), Warsame said that Miguna was a man “who exhibits mental and emotional fits in his defence of issues”.

He spoke of Miguna as having a “relentless sense of fighting back”, as one “who appears unpredictable and ready to fight”. Warsame added, “He is described as a man living in [a] mental darkroom.”

It is from the turmoil of this “mental darkroom” and out of his “relentless sense of fighting back” that Miguna decided to do his very best to destroy the man for whom he had previously and fervently declared his “love”, and whom he revered.

Miguna is a man of wild extremes. His actions have nothing at all to do with Raila Odinga. They have everything to do with Miguna Miguna, his lack of balance, and his distorted sense of self.

Let us begin by setting straight the record concerning the relationship between Miguna Miguna and Raila Odinga. Contrary to the wildly delusional claim in the publicity for his book, Miguna Miguna was NOT “for six years … the Prime Minister’s most trusted aide”.

Miguna Miguna was NEVER the Prime Minister’s most trusted or most senior aide. The fact is that Raila never felt he could fully trust Miguna, and that is why he deliberately kept him at arms’ length in an office on Nairobi Hill, and never allowed him to operate from his own town-centre office.

Trust is surely something that must be declared by the person doing the trusting. The Prime Minister has never voiced or shown such trust. The claim is entirely of Miguna’s own fabrication.

Then there is the “six years” Miguna speaks of. By his own admission, Miguna met Raila Odinga for the very first time in October 2006. Note that that is not yet six years to date.

Raila had gone to Toronto at the start of a speaking tour and from there continued to a number of similar functions in the USA. Miguna, of his own volition, travelled along with the party from his home of two decades in Canada, to Raila’s next stop, in Minnesota, which was the first of many on that tour – Washington DC, Atlanta, Huston, Omaha, Kansas City, New Jersey.

Miguna has claimed that he paid for this trip and met the expenses of Raila Odinga, a man he had never previously met, and certainly a man who had no need of or desire for Miguna’s sponsorship.

The tickets for the trip were, as confirmed by Raila’s friend Paddy Ahenda, who over the past weekend has consulted the relevant records, bought in Nairobi through travel agent Al Karim. It is one among many of Miguna’s self-aggrandising statements.

From that first meeting in Toronto, we fast forward four-and-a-half years – not six years – to the day Miguna Miguna was, on August 4, 2011, suspended from the office of the Prime Minister for conduct unbecoming.  

During those four-and-a-half years, Miguna was an employee of the Prime Minister’s office for just under 2½ years, having been appointed by President Mwai Kibaki on March 6, 2009.

Six years? Miguna Miguna is a master of exaggeration and fantastical ravings.

After that first meeting in October 2006, Miguna (who, like everyone else, could calculate that Raila Odinga had a very good chance of taking power in Kenya the following year) apparently took stock of his own situation in his adopted country, and decided that this was his opportunity to leave behind a chequered and rather uncomfortable past, and to reinvent himself back in his homeland.

Much of Miguna’s legal work in Canada had consisted of assisting immigrants, including immigrants from Kenya. In the course of this work, the 40-year-old Miguna had been publicly arrested on November 4, 2002, and charged with sexual assault on one of his clients, a 19-year-old woman.

Miguna appeared in court for trial on July 14, 2003, when he was rearrested and charged with further counts of sexual assault on another immigration client.

The trial judge acquitted Miguna, ruling that the alleged victims’ evidence was partially contradictory and not strong enough (as so often happens in sexual assault cases) to sustain a secure conviction. The trial judge did not, however, rule that Miguna’s accusers had acted maliciously, nor that they had formed a conspiracy, nor that they had lied.

Miguna reacted in a manner we have come to recognise – by suing everyone in sight. The defendants ranged from the Queen of England through the Canadian minister of justice, crown attorneys and the Toronto Police Board, to police officers involved in his arrest, for what a Canadian Appeal Judge called “a galaxy of reasons, some existent in law, and many not”.

Miguna also sued a newspaper that had printed a police appeal asking anyone else who believed herself a victim of Miguna’s unwanted attentions to come forward.

Miguna sought Canadian $17.5 million in damages, but he lost just about all, if not all, the more than 20 cases he launched, ending up having to pay out tens of thousands of Canadian dollars.

Dismissing some of the cases, the Appeals Judge referred to Miguna’s “allegations based on assumptions and speculation” and said that Miguna could not “merely plead allegations that he believes may or may not be true”.

Miguna was apparently operating in the realms of fantasy and speculative allegations even then. It seems to be a pattern.

But now an opportunity to escape all that had presented itself. Miguna must have eyed his new acquaintance with Raila Odinga as the chance of a lifetime.

Throughout the following year, while still in Canada, Miguna tried to cement this plan by bombarding Raila with unsolicited and unwanted advice.

This is what Miguna now describes as having been a political strategist for Raila during the period. Knowing Raila, I doubt he ever even read those communications, or had time to give them any of his attention.

Raila Odinga is a consummate political strategist. Why on earth would he need to depend on a man who had been out of the country for 20 years, having run away at the first hint of trouble in 1987 – at the same time as Raila Odinga and many others were undergoing the torturous conditions and life-threatening privations of Kamiti, Shimo la Tewa, Manyani and Naivasha maximum security prisons?

Raila suffered many years of three separate detention periods and went into exile when a fourth threatened – but he stayed away only a few months, and then he returned to continue the fight for change. Unlike Raila, Miguna stayed away living a very comfortable life in a western nation for two decades, leaving it to genuinely committed others to fight the real battle for reforms.

During 2006-2007, Miguna was also trying to raise his public profile prior to his return to Kenya by bombarding newspapers with his articles. Many people became dismissive. Miguna was not back in the country yet but he was already becoming a figure of fun, not taken seriously. It is sad, for an intelligent man. But he brought it on himself.

Eventually, Miguna returned to Kenya, in September 2007, just in time for parliamentary nominations. He tried his luck in Nyando and failed miserably at the ODM nomination stage, gaining miserably few votes. Characteristically, he lost no time in instituting a court case.

Miguna then threw himself into working hard to become a member of Mr Odinga’s inner circle, tagging on to the group of advisers around Mr Odinga, some of whom had been Mr Odinga’s close friends for decades.

One thing that was not in question then was Miguna’s loyalty to Raila Odinga. But it became apparent that this was no ordinary loyalty. It seemed more of an unhealthy obsession. In fact, Miguna’s fervent declarations that he “loved” Raila Odinga eventually became somewhat embarrassing and worrying.

Miguna vociferously defended Mr Odinga at every turn, including during the disputed 2007 election count, when Miguna was present at KICC – as a volunteer activist, like many others involved in the campaign. Because of his size, his attitude and his brashness, Miguna was always seen and heard. He was difficult to avoid.

After the elections, Miguna was out of work for more than a year. The Prime Minister eventually agreed to take pity on Miguna, and offered him the post of ‘adviser on coalition affairs and joint secretary [with Kivutha Kibwana for PNU] to the committee on management of coalition affairs’.

That was more than a year after the coalition government had been formed. It had taken that long for people to persuade the PM to employ Miguna. The PM remained very wary and uneasy about the idea (in hindsight, how wise his judgement was!) but he succumbed to persuasion from within his team.

The deciding factor for everyone was Miguna’s apparently unbounded loyalty and his support for Mr Odinga’s championship of national reforms. Miguna’s legal history in Canada was presented in sanitised form, without mention of the charges against him, of which, in any case, he had been acquitted.

What was not fully evident at the time was just how inappropriate Miguna’s behaviour in public life would become. His grotesquely swollen ego would cause endless problems within the Prime Minister’s office and among the coalition partners.

His attitude gave rise to countless complaints from people who failed to find a way of forging a working relationship with Miguna, and who often finally had no option but to retreat in fear and dislike.

One employee even went to the lengths of writing to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights because of treatment meted out by Miguna.

He was, for example, though not yet employed in the Prime Minister’s office, present at coalition talks at Kilaguni in 2008.

To the intense embarrassment of the Prime Minister and the distress of everyone else involved, Miguna took it upon himself (after rearranging the chairs to his satisfaction, as he writes in his book) to circulate an agenda that had not been agreed, and thus virtually singlehandedly drove the last nail into the coffin of the talks.

No one could contain him. People who were present can attest to the severe public dressing-down Miguna got from the Prime Minister at the time. It was only one of many occasions on which the PM would similarly have to rebuke him.

Of course, Miguna himself has put a different spin on this story, so that it does not reflect badly on him. Others who were present can tell a different tale.

Miguna’s self-regarding behaviour again almost led to a diplomatic incident at a Rome Statute meeting in Kampala, where Miguna publicly contradicted the head of the Kenya team, former attorney-general Amos Wako, and also quarrelled with embassy staff there over the quality of his vehicle and his hotel room – which apparently was not superior enough for one of Miguna’s self-adjudged status.

Afterwards, Kenya’s foreign minister was forced to report to the Prime Minister’s office that Miguna “lacked tact and could easily have attracted a fight had it not been for the extreme restraint by the AG and others”.

Miguna Miguna has no brakes. He never knows when to stop. He is loud and large and pushy and intimidating. He is completely insensitive to other people’s reactions to him, and he appears unable to judge where situations require restraint and diplomacy.

Miguna only understands one language – the language of confrontation. He has no idea what it takes to keep a vulnerable political arrangement in place. He would prefer to destroy everything around him, as he has come close to doing so many times, on the excuse of “principle”.

This is not principle. Miguna thinks that shouting louder than everyone else and intimidating them shows “principle” in resolving issues. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Miguna has no understanding whatsoever of the diplomacy and political strategy involved in ensuring that this country has remained stable under a government of competing forces. If Miguna had been in charge of the coalition, it would have collapsed long ago, and that might well have seen our country on fire once again.

It is not cowardice – one of his charges against Raila Odinga – that has achieved the comparatively smooth running of this very difficult arrangement. It is the wisdom to know when to insist, when to give way, when to bide time.

Miguna’s lack of political wisdom, which in his case is replaced by the equivalent of bludgeoning people over the heads with an axe, is the reason he became a dangerous loose cannon and a terrible liability to both sides of the coalition arrangement.

He arrogated to himself authority he did not have – and this is very evident in his prose. “I did this, I did that, I summoned people to a meeting” – and sometimes “we” did this or that.

Who is this “we”? Miguna’s behaviour ensured he had no friends in the PM’s office or in other arms of government. He simply inserted his unneeded and unwanted presence everywhere, going completely beyond his mandate. He had none of the authority he assumed, nor any of the leadership skills that he pretends in his overblown writing.

All that Miguna writes is evidence of his bloated sense of self. His overbearing behaviour was a serious embarrassment in every meeting he attended, as anyone who was present can attest to.

He pushed himself in everywhere, and no one could negotiate in the face of his belligerence. He still doesn’t understand this. He appears constitutionally unable to.

It might be appreciated from all this how very difficult it increasingly became to involve Miguna Miguna in any official duties, without feeling concern that some sudden eruption of frenzied fury on his part would jeopardise delicate negotiations.

He was rude to his staff, rude to his colleagues, rude to his employer, rude to everyone in the coalition partnership and rude to everyone he wrote about with his poison pen in his regular Star newspaper column. It was exhausting for everyone having to cope with this on a daily basis.

And contrary to his claims, Miguna did not write his Star column at the behest of the Prime Minister. It is a fact that Miguna eventually falls out with many of the people he encounters, and it is no surprise to know that, true to form, he has since fallen out with the Star management and no longer has a column in that newspaper.

One of my journalistic colleagues has raised an interesting question: Did Miguna always seek to attract hatred towards Mr Odinga? Was that why he wrote the way he did in the Star, always stirring painful controversy and calumny against the PM?

It is food for thought, especially in light of one of the most startling revelations to come out of Miguna’s book. He says people were jealous that, if Raila Odinga were not there, Miguna would be a contender for leadership of the Luo community.

Was this what Miguna always had in his mind? Was he, in fact, a fifth-columnist? It would certainly explain a lot and is an intriguing proposition, one that bears further scrutiny.

Back at the office, Miguna had also refused to sign the terms of his three-year contract, citing his lower remuneration than that of Kibwana, his opposite number in the coalition arrangement.

Kibwana was vastly more experienced in government, including having been a Cabinet minister in more than one ministry as well as a university professor – details that Miguna apparently felt should not be taken into consideration. Miguna was thus on a month-to-month arrangement.

The hostility between Miguna and Kibwana from day one meant that the two men met no more than twice. They could never agree on an agenda or the minutes of the two meetings they did attend. Miguna could no longer do his job.

Miguna made a signboard that he erected on his office door: ‘Permanent Secretary’ it declared, among other things. Miguna was nowhere near the level of permanent secretary. He was junior in rank to the PS in the PM’s office, to the PM’s chief of staff and to others. Miguna operates from behind a dense cloud of self-delusion.

He behaved as if he were in charge of everything, everywhere. From his book, if Miguna is to be believed, he was the prime mover, the chairman, the convenor, the secretary, the leader of every single department or committee touching the Prime Minister’s office. This is so far from the truth as to be completely ludicrous.

A further problem arose.