Opinion: Losers and winners in last week's JKIA drama

Raila Odinga
There were unfortunate incidents touching on airport security, international travel procedures, political emotionalism and dethroning or power-grabbing schemes.

 The probable victim of the 'dethroning' scheme was former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whose control of the lakeside people has been hitherto unchallenged.

Several 'leaders' play the sycophants while competing to inherit Raila. They simply dare not come out openly, except for one Canadian citizen calling himself a “general”.

In the process, there were political losers and winners in the drama at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) last week. The biggest loser was Raila, and the temporary winner was the “general”.

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This situation arose from a prolonged stand-off at JKIA involving the Canadian citizen of Kenyan origin trying to force his way into Kenya without producing appropriate travel documents.

After some days, during which the Canadian demanded entry into Kenya and the immigration officials insisted he must first present his travel documents, he was deported to Dubai.

It was a matter of airport security, international and domestic norms, procedures, identity, media entertainment, and law. Most importantly, it was a power play involving politicians and would-be politicians trying to make names for themselves.

It did not help when Government officials, whether in the Executive, Judiciary or Legislature, appeared to be working at cross-purposes.


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The Canadian has a habit of making loud declarations about Raila and himself; the two appeared to have a strange love-hate relationship.

Prior to the 2007 General Election, he had tried to raise funds by rallying all people of Nilotic lineage to acknowledge Raila as the Luo president.

He was admitted to the bar in 2008 and obtained a Kenyan passport without renouncing his Canadian citizenship.

He then made the mistake of quarrelling with his mentor and publishing two books about Raila’s political and intellectual incompetence.

He gained notoriety with his “Come baby, come” dare before fading back to Canada to await new opportunities.

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The big chance came in the elections of 2017. He wanted to be governor of Nairobi but lost.

He then re-invented himself as part of the Raila camp during the repeat presidential election last October, and overshadowed those who had stuck with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party.

Resenting the likes of David Ndii, Jimi Wanjigi and Norman Magaya, who seemingly had Raila’s ear, he rebranded himself into a “general” of the National Resistance Movement.

The drama at the airport was part of that 'big return'. But although the bid flopped, it helped to dent Raila’s political image.

In between his departure to Canada and the attempted return to Kenya, the NRM “general” watched developments from his Canadian vantage point.

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He accused Ndii, Wanjigi and Magaya of being Jubilee Party moles who should be weeded out of ODM's strategy teams.

He watched Raila and his National Super Alliance co-principals Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang'ula, and Kalonzo Musyoka trade blame and insults, and then added his own by accusing Raila of treachery to the “cause”.

This was after Raila accepted President Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya’s legitimate leader.

From that moment onwards, the insults heaped on Raila gave the NRM “general” the status of a likely alternative to the Odinga family's political stronghold on the people living around Lake victoria.

The “general” is good at manipulating media - capturing headlines and gaining as much publicity as possible, Donald Trump style.

The media loved the airport drama, the associated courtroom circus and the “defiance” that the “general” represented.

This defiance included rebuffing pleas from his mentor, Raila, to use common sense in order to be allowed to enter the country.

In doing so, he deliberately undercut Raila’s influence. He is, however, very far from capturing Raila’s emotional base.

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