By Otuma Ongalo
The revered Nelson Mandela is not a great man for nothing. He towers above other leaders when it comes to stating what he believes in. He is not swayed by mob mood and neither does he seek cheap popularity by telling an emotive crowd what it is eager to hear. At a time when the western leaders had poisoned the world’s mind against then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Mandela acknowledged the self-declared king of kings’ weaknesses, but told the Western leaders off when they protested his visit to Tripoli.
He reminded them that Gaddafi had stuck with South Africa in its difficult moments and he could not forsake him simply because the west hates him. When he took over as the President of the Rainbow Nation, Mandela did what was considered unthinkable. He preached truth and reconciliation and embraced his former tormentors in the spirit of the new South Africa.
That is the venerable Nelson Mandela. The man who speaks not because of the heat of the moment or political rewards expected but because of his conviction. He may err, like any other human being, but Madiba never plays to the gallery even in matters as sensitive as marital infidelity. When he could no longer withstand his troubled marriage, he candidly and emotionally let the world know through his memorable testimony in open court: “Ever since I came back from jail, not once has the defendant (Winnie Mandela) ever entered the bedroom while I was awake.” And this was the president confessing. Our leaders are a pale shadow of Mandela, with few or no exceptions at all. They say not what lies deep in their hearts but what they think a charged crowd before them would like to hear.
If it means invading private property, shedding the blood of community members perceived hostile, suffering silently in troubled marriages, disowning their children, or even hiding ailments considered embarrassing or a threat to their political careers – so be it.
A typical Kenyan politician in search of votes is worse than a testosterone laden bull in the kraal or a hyena that has already tasted blood and wants to go the whole hog, even if it means eating its victim while it’s still alive. There being no towering Mandela among us and as the next General Election approaches, aspirants for top positions have been playing to the gallery to win votes, from whichever quarters. They have warmed to and emboldened an emerging monster at the Coast known as Mombasa Republican Council ( MRC), and it doesn’t matter that this is a secessionist group that wants to carve their region from the rest of Kenya. They have been shouting Pwani si Kenya (Coast Province is not part of Kenya) and vote-thirsty politicians have emboldened them with the cliché that their demands are legitimate and must be listened to.
MRC leaders are now being treated with velvet gloves and have even come from their hiding to make a litany of demands. As the nation fights the war against terror perpetrated by external elements, an internal terror gang is insidiously being nurtured in the name of MRC. The outlawed Mungiki is watching closely and has been coming out of its closet to claim a stake in national politics. Never mind the deceptive face behind it. The Sungu Sungu, Saboat Land Defence Force, Angola Musumbiji, Jeshi la Embakasi and other similar outfits are also watching.
If the proponents of Pwani si Kenya campaign are treated with velvet gloves, what will prevent some bloodshot eye individuals elsewhere from shouting “Kamukuywa si Kenya?” The concerns raised by MRC are not peculiar to the coastal region. Poverty, marginalisation, lack of job opportunities and landlessness are problems that bestride the whole nation and cannot be addressed selectively to appease certain regions or egos. If desperation is a legitimate reason to secede, then only Muthaiga, Karen, Runda and related suburbs are the only true Kenya. The rest is not Kenya. Leaders who consort with MRC for the sake of improving their political stakes are like the proverbial woman who hid and fed the ogre that eventually ate her.
The writer is a media consultant and commentator on political and social issues