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Miguna Miguna: The multi-faced NRM general

Saturday February 03 2018
MIGPIC

Lawyers Tom Kajwang' (left) and Miguna Miguna chat at Uhuru Park on January 30, 2018 as they wait for the "swearing-in" of Nasa leader Raila Odinga as the people's president. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JULIUS SIGEI

When word went round in the wee hours of Friday that police were raiding flamboyant political activist Miguna Miguna’s home in Runda, I texted him seeking to establish the veracity of the claim.

“Stop asking questions! Act!” he barked at me before proceeding to explain that police had “bombed their way into the house”.

“Some are still hiding in the compound of my house hoping that I make a move so that they can shoot me and claim there was a ‘shoot-out!’ I am staying put! We need our youth in large numbers! 486 Runda Meadows!”

This is vintage Miguna who doesn’t quake or cower.

The author, lawyer, activist, and public intellectual likes nothing more than pulverising his co-debaters on talk shows, leaving them as objects of pity.

Ask Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris, or Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi, or even Senator Mithika Linturi, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of Miguna Miguna’s often boisterous diatribe.

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FALLOUT
His most famous fallout however was with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whom he served briefly but with complete devotion before loudly and bitterly parting ways.

But how can such a steely character morph from an extreme adorer to a toxic hater, then back to the beginning, all in a short while?

For the 55-year-old lawyer has in recent weeks become the face of the National Resistance Movement — the now proscribed outfit formed by the opposition coalition, Nasa, following the bitter fallout from last year’s elections.

I was in 486 Runda Meadows four years ago seeking to understand what makes this imposing man from Nyando tick.

LAST BORN

The house Miguna built sits on three-quarters of an acre.

It’s, for all intents and purposes, a palace. Runda itself is the place where the super-rich of Kenya live.

“I am the last born in a large family. I breastfed until I was in Standard One.

"Coming after an older brother and five sisters automatically meant that I had to learn to fend for myself, especially when my mother was not around.”

Could this be the source of his aggressiveness, which seems to know no bounds?

Psychologists have observed how the position of a child in a family affects its world view and temperament as an adult.

It must be a different matter altogether for a man who was forced to make a living for himself early in life.

CRITICS
But Mr Miguna also spoke of consistency.

“In my case it’s always been a question of priority, hard work and passion. These three make almost everything possible, and, of course, consistency.”

Yet how can one talk of consistency next to the name of a man for whom the word about-face may have been coined?

Still, he dismissed fervently the characterisation by some critics who saw him then as the vintage Grigori Rasputin, the Russian mystic and self-proclaimed holy man and “evil genius” who can bite the finger that feeds him without much of a thought.

He then went into a long lecture on why he is not a Rasputin.

SUCCESS

He stressed his humble background, not seeing his father who died before he was born, and his peasant mother hoeing Kano plains under the unforgiving Kisumu sun to fend for them.

“By all accounts, I am a successful man. I live in Runda for God’s sake.

"If I bit the hands of those who fed me I would have been a failure and I would not live here.

"I don’t live here because of Raila Odinga; neither do I live here on mortgage or courtesy of corruption or funding by some ubiquitous agency.

"I built my house before I returned to Kenya in 2007! Do you see auctioneers out there waiting to pounce on me?”

ARREST
There were certainly no auctioneers anywhere near that morning on November 2013, but last Friday police pounced, forced their way in and took him away.

The arrest and later detention at Githunguri police station and elsewhere was part of a crack down by the government following the “swearing-in” of Mr Odinga as the people’s president last Tuesday, an act officials say is treasonable.

Police refused to free Mr Miguna despite a court order that he be released on a cash bail of Sh50,000.

“He publicly declared that he is the general of NRM, already declared a proscribed group. How can we let him go?” Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti asked reporters on Friday.

BOLDNESS
Miguna admires Mwalimu D.O. Misiani, the benga maestro from his backyard, whom he lauds as the one-man army against totalitarianism who taught him how to speak truth to power.

But D.O. Misiani used metaphors and parables.

Not so for Miguna. When he comes for you, he will leave no doubt at all as to what he thinks about you.

He will dispense with common decency, which he considers to be bothersome.

Those who have sat with him in talk-show studios have been overwhelmed by his loud tones; they have had their intelligence and moral probity shredded in total disregard of their feelings.

INTELLECTUAL
When I brought to his attention the fact that many dismiss him as a big-mouthed charlatan, he wondered why they were saying that only after his fallout with Mr Odinga.

"Even if they think I am just barking, I have the right to bark — these are some of the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

"But I wish they could listen to the substance of what I say because most of the time I have been proved right.”

Indeed even those who hate Miguna acknowledge this stubborn fact: His awesome intellectual resources complete with a gift of the gab.

Mr Odinga, with whom he has mended fences in a way that remains an enigma for now, has been the recipient of some of the choicest invectives from the barrister who practises in Canada.

They are all there in public statements and in his books — Peeling Back the Mask and Kidneys for the King — which he wrote specifically to get at his former boss.

SUSPENDED
I asked him if he wasn’t too hard even for an adversary.

“How was I supposed to hit him after he kicked me in the groin? I was hitting at him to stay alive. He suspended me through the media when he had sent me to represent him in a strategy meeting, the way Moi used to do,” he said.

In so doing, he explained, his friend-turned-foe had demonstrated that he did not care about his rights, reputation, family, and livelihood and that he had to take him head-on.

Residents of his hometown have burnt his effigy and buried him in a mock coffin; they have named a deadly weed “Miguna Miguna”, but he has lived it all to tell the tale, though he would later make an about-turn and embrace the hero of his people.

Now, the government has taken him in and seems determined to break his spirit. Will it succeed? Only time will tell.

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