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Jaramogi’s struggle for multi-party politics and failed dream to lead Kenya

BUSINESS
By | May 27th 2010
By | May 27th 2010
BUSINESS

Eight years after Kenya became a one-party state by law, in 1982, a clamour for multi-party democracy began in 1990 in earnest.

Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia and Raila Odinga, who openly launched a multi-party crusade faced detention.

Jaramogi on his part carefully avoided addressing press conferences, but bombarded the media with stinging statements challenging Kanu’s one party rule.

But Jaramogi was not a lone voice in the wilderness. He was joined by courageous clerics such as Rev Timothy Njoya of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, as well as Rev Dr Henry Okullu, Rev David Gitari of the Anglican Church and other like-minded clerics.

In March 1991, Jaramogi announced the formation of a political party. Accompanied by co-founder members, he presented the party’s documents to the Registrar of Societies for registration.

The new party, National Development Party (NDP), was co-founded by people the Weekly Review referred to as "unknown personalities trying to cause aspersion to prospective members".

The office bearers with Jaramogi as the de-facto chairman were Salim Ndamwe, the secretary general, who was listed as a Kapenguria businessman, Ramadhan Mohamed Mwagumo, a former Mombasa Kanu official was named deputy treasurer, and Michael Lobuin Nenee, also a Kapenguria businessman as national organising secretary.

Beacon of hope

The vice-chairman was Francis Maina and Samuel Kariuki Munyi, a Nairobi businessman, was deputy organising secretary. As expected, the party was denied registration by the authorities.

Njoya commended Jaramogi’s effort to register a political party as a "beacon of hope on the road to democracy".

The founders challenged the decision of the Registrar of Societies in court where their lawyer, James Orengo, unsuccessfully tried to convince the court that "the party was merely a society and registering it would not, therefore, contravene Section 2(A) of the Constitution, which provides for only one political party, Kanu."

The presiding Judge, Justice Norbury Dugdale, threw out the application.

The fact that the party had been formed and attempts to register it was in itself remarkably significant in Jaramogi’s relentless crusade to restore multi-party democracy in the country.

Jaramogi’s persistence gave courage to other leaders and as a result, a pressure group, Forum for Restoration of Democracy (FORD) was formed with Jaramogi as its de-facto leader.

Other personalities in FORD were Masinde Muliro, Joseph Martin Shikuku, George Nthenge, Ahmed Salim Bamahriz and Philip Gachoka (who was believed to be holding brief for Matiba who was then recuperating in a London hospital following a stroke, at the time).

On December 3, 1991, a Special Kanu Delegates Conference ‘ratified’ a resolution calling on Parliament to re-introduce multi-party politics.

Decades

The next day, December 4, 1991, Attorney General Amos Wako signed the Constitutional (Amendment) (No 2) Bill, which was published in a special issue of the Kenya Gazette of December 5, 1991 repealing section 2(A) of the Constitution, and duly restoring Kenya to a multi-party democracy.

Having rubbed his enemies, both local and international the wrong way for more than three decades, Jaramogi was never destined to capture the top leadership of Kenya, not by choice, not by design. He was to benefit the least in the subsequent election of 1992.

For, although FORD was within sight of victory, it broke into fragments giving Kanu a chance to retain power.

Before the split of the original FORD, signs that Jaramogi would be the winner in the forthcoming general election were overwhelming. He also felt it and was very excited about it.

The prospect of Jaramogi clinching the presidency brought in younger political activists popularly referred to as the "Young Turks" in droves.

The young Turks went into overdrive in trying to insulate Jaramogi from his associates who had been with him through thick and thin over the years.

Among these were Raila Odinga, Paul Muite, Gitobu Imanyara, Nyong’o, Orengo and Michael Kijana Wamalwa.

Young Turks, who had even apportioned themselves the positions they were likely to hold in the event of an Odinga administration, sidelined some of us, who had been with Jaramogi all along.

British spies

One thing they did not take cognizance of was that designs against Jaramogi, by international forces, determined to not only disorganise, but to ruin his chances of leading Kenya.

Writing in the New African issue of October 1999, investigative journalist Michael Purvis James clearly confirmed how the M16 (the British version of the American CIA) had "worked ceaselessly to destroy the popular, socialist ex-Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga".

It has been suggested in some quarters that Jaramogi was misled by some of his close associates and political handlers who only hung around him for monetary gain.

I find this a cheap and worthless belief because I know that those who stuck with Jaramogi did it on their own volition and because they subscribed to his thinking.

His shortcomings were known, his intransigence and obstinacy largely affected his perception, which on many occasions offended those in power.

The British M16 and the American CIA took advantage of his intransigence and obstinacy to hit Jaramogi below the belt, starting from the 1960s to the 1990s.

© Odinge Odera 2010

Book published by African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF), Nairobi. Copies of the book can be obtained from Book Stop, Yaya Centre, Prestige Bookshop and University of Nairobi bookshop. For enquiries contact:[email protected] or [email protected] or Tel: 8330457

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