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Aukot and the plight of intellectuals in politics

Sunday August 11 2019

EKURU AUKOT

Thirdway Alliance party leader Ekuru Aukot addresses Nakuru County Assembly members about his Punguza Mizigo petition on July 24, 2019. Dr Aukot was dismissed ab initio as lacking political gravitas. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ISAACK OTIDI
By ISAACK OTIDI
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There is no doubt that Dr Ekuru Aukot long earned his place as one of Kenya’s if not Africa’s leading legal minds.

From being Director of the Committee of Experts at the tail end of Kenya’s Constitution-making to consulting on constitution-making for Tunisia, Egypt and Liberia - the latter where he served as chief technical adviser – the man from Kapedo was for a long time considered a legal and intellectual powerhouse; his views on the law and governance being given consideration until he ventured into politics in 2017.

From the moment Dr Aukot declared his interest in the presidency, he instantly ceased to be the brainy celebrated lawyer and academic in the eyes of his detractors.

Some portrayed him as a caricature and naïve dreamer who had better remained within the university lecture halls, stayed put doing legal consultancy or kept moving up and down judicial corridors.

Simply, Dr Aukot was dismissed ab initio as lacking political gravitas, and was therefore not given the time of day a person of his calibre imagined he deserved. He was quickly relegated to the league of political non-starters.

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Undeterred, the migration law expert went all the way to the ballot during the August 8 elections, thereafter joining the legal challenge against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, in which petition his lawyer fronted arguments which contributed to the nullification of the poll.

Seeing that he had proved not to be an easy pushover and having sided with the Raila Odinga-led Nasa brigade during the case, Dr Aukot seemed to have received a tinge of redemption especially from the opposition quarters, who now perceived him as an ally of sorts.

However, Dr Aukot’s reprieve was short-lived. Insisting that he would respect the ruling by participating in the October 26 repeat election which Mr Odinga boycotted, the lawyer was once again back to the default position of being castigated as an opportunist, a spoiler, ambitious and entitled individual.

Some went as far as saying he was colluding with Mr Kenyatta to sanitise a flawed process.

Despite the vitriol, the man persisted post-election, insisting that he was the leader of the official opposition. The gloves of his social media critics came off fully, with Dr Aukot being told his was a joke taken too far.

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If Dr Aukot thought he had seen it all, he mustn’t have been aware of what lay in waiting when he announced a push for constitutional change through his 'Punguza Mizigo' (reduce the burden) plan.

Dismissed as an exercise in futility – none of the big boys and girls of Kenyan politics imagined that a modest party like Dr Aukot’s manage to collect a million verifiable signatures to trigger a referendum.

The announcement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that Dr Aukot’s operation had done what Nasa’s Okoa Kenya failed to achieve caught everyone flatfooted.

Had the supposed political lightweight pulled a first one?

It is this victory, of jumping over the one million verifiable signatures hurdle, that has forced Dr Aukot’s critics to sit back and relook their attitude towards him.

He may still be the same novice they labelled him to be, but the law don has undeniably proved that even if he is the metaphoric small dog, he certainly has a big fight in him.

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With this new realisation, Dr Aukot’s adversaries have now brought out the big guns, using politics and the courts to stop him in his tracks.

The prevailing reality is that Dr Aukot might not have been a threat during the presidential race. But this time round, anyone who ignores him will be doing so at their own peril.

Punguza Mizigo poses a direct threat to the Building Bridges Initiative, whose final recommendation – a call for constitutional change – remains an open secret.

Depending on how ward representatives react to the carrot Dr Aukot’s proposals dangle their way – by suggesting that the ward and not the constituency be the primary unit for development – it might turn out to be the case of an intellectual outsmarting the political establishment.

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