Kenyans at sea with bridges Uhuru and Raila are building

By Barrack Muluka | Saturday, Sep 1st 2018 at 00:00
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President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga

We must learn to be unfazed by temporary fads. The grain of history teaches us that sudden bouts of camaraderie and mysterious overflows of positive energy between perennial rivals are not to be trusted.

The serpent hisses wherever such sweet birds sing. In the end, you learn not to be swayed by crowds and the bombast of passing political achievements. This is where the recent hullabaloo about President Trump’s amity with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un resides. Also in the same docket is Kenya’s fabled handshake between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta. The two happenings make for a lot of political drama and hardly much else.

At the time of writing, the Trump covenant with Kim Jung-un on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsular seems to be falling through. They only signed the deal in June. We seem to live in the ultimate age of comedies of political errors and citizens’ desperation for positive change that they will fall for anything. There was palpable excitement two months ago, over President Trump’s newfound amity with North Korea’s leader. The US leader visited Asia and had a handshake with his Korean counterpart in a hugely publicized encounter. Two months later, things are crumbling.

The US president has this week shown restlessness at the pace of “denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsular, which was matter at the heart of the June excitement. Never mind that the two leaders only signed a vague agreement. There were no measurable time-framed goals. Indeed, the notion of “the pace of denuclearisation” is a misnomer. For, nothing of the kind is happening. It did not even begin, so there can be no pace. Was the June excitement about the US and North Korea a fad?

Back home, the arrest of Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu has exposed the soft underbelly of the fancied March 9 handshake at Harambee House. Writing in June about the unending political songs of praise on the handshake, I said in this column, “I am a slow walker and I will travel slowly. And I, too, will arrive.”

Fair country

I wrote further, “My moment of praising the handshake, the hugs and the kisses will come after I finally understand what they are about. I will wait for a free and fair election, respect for the Judiciary and a conscientious Parliament. I will wait for a democratic, free and fair country. Then I, too, will sing songs of praise.”

Is Jubilee keeping its promise to “revisit” the matter of the annulment of the August 8 presidential election? An angry President Kenyatta called Chief Justice David Maraga strange names. He promised to teach the Judiciary a lesson. However, soon after the repeat election and his being sworn in, the President visited the Judiciary and had a jovial time with the CJ and his team. The hatchet seemed buried and forgotten. Yet the humiliation of the DCJ in total disregard of due process has exposed the tension between Jubilee and the Judiciary. The matter is of course still before the court and we must tiptoe softly around it. Yet, you cannot fail to note that this is not how you arrest a sitting judge. The law gives a clear mechanism.

First, you set up a tribunal to remove a judge who is perceived to have offended the law. You may then arrest and arraign her before the courts. Was this saga calculated to humiliate the judge and as a message to the Judiciary that Big Brother is coming for you? It is difficult not to smell an ugly big fat rat in this unfortunate drama.

From another reckoning, the merits of 32, mostly political lawyers, appearing for Mwilu are not clear to me as a layman. I would have thought one or two very good lawyers should normally suffice? More significantly, the spectacle brings fresh focus to bear on the March handshake. What was this thing all about? ODM politicians have appeared in court in their other incarnation to berate a Jubilee government that they are working with. We need to understand the meaning of the handshake between Uhuru and Raila.

What, exactly, do they mean when they say that they are building bridges? What bridges are these? Where are they? These questions have been posed many times. The hand shakers told the world they are working together. How should we understand this togetherness in the DCJ saga? Did they arrest her together? Or, is it that one side arrested her and the other unleashed 32 lawyers to defend her? How should we understand this in the context of building bridges?

In truth, Kenya has been running on the same spot since the August 8 election. The great questions of the day have been buried in overflows of pretext, sycophancy and hypocrisy in Jubilee and ODM. But Jubilee has never pretended to be democratic. Accordingly, the bigger villains are the ODM sycophants who jumped at a handshake they never understood and began praising it from rooftops. If tomorrow their boss turns against the Jubilee mischief they will just as quickly turn with him.

They are the indignant desert birds Irish poet WB Yeats wrote about, festooning a pitiless figure with a lion’s body and a human head, slouching towards a sinister Bethlehem to be born again.

The world will be a better place the day these desert birds stop singing sycophantic songs and making political speeches in court. We are caught up in this trap because of these unquestioning sweet birds; a political breed that is fazed by just about any fad from the top. Today, they don’t know whether they are in government or in the Opposition – so much the worse for them.

- The writer is a strategic public communications advise

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