Before last week’s dramatic deportation of self declared general of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Dr Miguna Miguna to Canada, there was a vocal Mombasa politician Ahmed Bamahriz who, when threatened with deportation by retired President Daniel arap Moi, retorted that Moi too should be dispatched to the country of Sudan.
“Iwapo kweli mababu zangu wana asilia ya Yemen, basi tuandamane na Rais Moi kwenye ndege ile ile mtakayonisafirisha, ili Moi ashukishwe kwanza kwao nchini Sudan (If it is indeed true that my roots are in Yemen, then put me on the same flight back home with President Moi so we drop him home first in Sudan),” Bamahriz, founder member of the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (Ford) in 1992, reacted.
Five years later, ahead of the 1997 elections, the Moi government stripped another Mombasa opposition politician and preacher, Sheikh Balala, of his Kenyan citizenship.
Curiously, the invalidation of Mr Balala’s passport was made while he was away in Germany.
In a public act of defiance, a fuming Balala flew all the way to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, only to be denied entry to his home country. He had to fly back to Germany.
The motive behind the government’s actions against Bamahriz, Balala and lately Miguna may have been disguised under other reasons, including threat to security, but ideally they were all persuaded by political considerations.
Same as Mr Miguna, who has emerged as the harshest critic of what he terms “Uhuru’s despotic regime”, Bamahriz and Balala were a thorn in the flesh of Moi’s Kanu regime in the 1990s.
Fluent in Swahili language, the duo moved crowds with their idioms and riddles to drive home anti-Moi sentiments.
Bamahriz, who alongside first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, veteran politicians Masinde Muliro, Martin Shikuku, George Nthenge and businessman Philip Gachoka were Ford’s “leading lights”, worked up crowds at rallies, while Balala passed on his message from the pulpit and on the streets where he served as an Islamic preacher.
Former political detainee Koigi wa Wamwere opines that successive regimes in Kenya have separately used the deportation card to deal with dissenting voices.
To effectively execute this ploy, the former Subukia MP observes that government critics are branded as “foreigners”.
Although, for instance, the government explained through spokesperson of Interior Ministry Mwenda Njoka that Miguna had been deported to his “home country” of Canada after renouncing his Kenyan citizenship, many are of the contrary opinion.
Noting, for instance, that Miguna vied for governor’s seat in Nairobi, Makueni County Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr wonders at what point the State “suddenly realised that Miguna is a foreigner”?
Similarly Bamahriz and Balala, who were branded foreigners by the Moi establishment at the height of the crusade for multiparty politics in the 1990s, were doubtlessly Kenyans.
Moi too is not a citizen of Sudan as claimed by Bamahriz, who was only stressing the point that nearly everyone has roots outside the country.
In the current instance, Mr Miguna was deported after police officers broke into his home, arrested and charged him – four days later – for administering an oath to Mr Raila Odinga as the "People’s President" at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park on January 30 and being a member of a proscribed group – NRM.
In a twist of events, however, the authorities failed to produce Mr Miguna in court to answer to those charges as ordered by High Court Judge Luka Kimaru but instead surrendered him to the Immigration officers, who deported him to Canada.
Vice Chairman of Jubilee Party David Murathe defends the deportation action, claiming Dr Miguna was standing in the way of the government’s plan to rollout its development agenda:
“Let us not read politics in the move against Miguna, because he is now a Canadian citizen and we got as much pressure from his home country asking about his whereabouts and requesting the Kenyan government to release him to them – and we did just that.”
In his statement to the press, released in Amsterdam on his way to Toronto, Canada, Mr Miguna maintained that he had never renounced his Kenyan citizenship or even contemplated doing so.
Stating that the “alleged revocation” of Miguna’s citizenship is a warning shot to the dissenting voices within Nasa, Mr Wamwere observes that the Jubilee administration is only borrowing a leaf from previous regimes “that either threatened to strip critics of their citizenship or hounded them out of the country”.
The latter ploy, according to Wamwere, was meant to keep “the bad eggs away from poisoning the masses”.
Mr Wamwere is among those who fled into exile in Norway during the Moi regime in the 1980s, as well as Raila, lawyers Kiraitu Murungi (now Meru Governor), Gibson Kamau Kuria, and university lecturers Ngungi wa Thiong’o, Al-Amin Mazrui, Edward Oyugi and Micere Mugo, among others.
Besides revocation of Miguna’s citizenship, the Director of Immigration, Gordon Kihalangwa has issued threats of withdrawal of passports of 16 opposition MPs.
Ideally, the situation seems to be back to where it started.