By Oscar Obonyo
Prime Minister Raila Odinga is experiencing political heat from several fires lit under his seat by a former trusted aide and friend. For now, he endures it in silence with his allies and rapid response teams also held in check.
Some of the fires are being fanned by several of his rivals, including three presidential hopefuls who usually shy away from a confrontational approach. The discomfort arises from a sensational book by Miguna Miguna, the PM’s former advisor on coalition affairs.
Launched on Saturday, Peeling Back The Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya, purports to be a tell-all book on the inner workings of the Prime Minister’s office and the Grand Coalition within which it was created. The publication of excerpts ahead of the launch has, however, attracted claims from several people mentioned that Miguna’s recollections are faulty.
Miguna alleges instances of abuse of office, corruption, political trickery and public deception orchestrated or covered up in Raila’s office. He accuses several ODM Cabinet members and key Raila aides of having gone to bed with “merchants of corruption”. He also claims to have raised these issues with the PM during his time as an advisor to no avail.
This, he says, is proof of “deception, duplicity and hypocrisy” in the Raila camp and should spark reasoned debate about his leadership qualities.
“If Raila’s presidential bid is scuttled by the truth, so be it,” Miguna told the The Standard. “Should we fail to question corruption in Government and in the Office of the PM merely because Raila wants to be president?”
Coming just eight months to the next General Election, the book could hurt Raila’s quest for the presidency. Campaigning on a reform agenda, the 67-year-old PM is well ahead of a pack of younger leaders pushing a message of generational change and an end to high-level corruption.
Opinion polls show he has held onto a comfortable lead for the last four years with his strongest rivals hampered by various setbacks, including a case at the International Criminal Court for his strongest foe in a head-to-head matchup.
Miguna’s book provides rivals with ammunition to use against Raila’s campaign. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka has dismissed Raila’s reform credentials as “fake” and called for donors to withdraw support to the PM’s office. He told voters not to trust “selfish billionaires” seeking office to grow their empires. Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta called for investigations into some of the allegations of corruption in the PM’s office. Eldoret North MP William Ruto said Raila was a pretender whose secrets had been laid bare.
As more revelations pour out of the book, this trend is likely to continue. On Saturday, even former MP Paul Muite, a Raila ally, said there were issues in Raila’s past that needed to be clarified.
Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa, however, is not impressed by what he has seen so far. He says the challenge is that Kenyans already know Raila quite well.