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Questions raised after Raila fails to secure Miguna’s release

Nasa leader Raila Odinga (Center)accompanied by Siaya James Orengo (Right) exiting JKIA after Miguna was denied entry into Kenya by immigration department. [Photo by Edward Kiplimo/Standard]

After the Opposition leader was humiliated by police officers at the airport, some wonder whether his deal with Uhuru will hold.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga frantically phoned President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene as security men tried to deport lawyer Miguna Miguna on Monday. However, hours later, a forlorn Raila was seen headed for his car and he left the airport as Miguna was pushed to a Dubai-bound Emirates plane, which he refused to board.

Up to yesterday, Mr Miguna, who was first controversially deported to Canada last month, was still at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) demanding entry into his country of birth. Sources said as the struggle between Miguna and security men unfolded, Raila, who had rushed to the airport with Senator James Orengo and Jimi Wanjigi among others, reportedly spoke to Uhuru on the phone regarding the events.

He was clearly unsuccessful in getting high-level intervention, raising questions among his supporters about the value of his recent rapprochement with the President.

Ease tensions

The agreement that saw the National Super Alliance (NASA) leader drop his hardline position of not recognising Uhuru was expected to ease tensions related to the post-election dispute, but images of an apparently helpless Raila at the airport gave a different impression

In one of the scenes, Raila is captured running after the security officers who were whisking Miguna away before another officer shoved the former premier aside. Raila appeared frustrated throughout the chaotic moments, as he spent most of his time trying to make phone calls, perhaps to get the combative lawyer released.

Raila's close allies indicated he had reached out to Uhuru over the matter, although there were conflicting accounts on the President's response. One of his closest allies, who was with him at the airport, said Raila tried to reach the President on the phone when he arrived at JKIA.

According to the source, the NASA chief was unable to get through to the President's line. But he reportedly found the Head of State through an aide. According to the source, the President told Raila he would find out more about the matter immediately.

"As if someone was monitoring the conversation, immediately Raila ended the call, a team of plainclothes policemen arrived and violently bundled Miguna out from where he was standing, in full glare of the lawyers and Raila himself," said the source.

Raila tried to hold onto Miguna's luggage but his aides and bodyguards asked him to let it go as the police pushed it through a door headed to the departure lounge. The account about the President's line being unreachable was corroborated by another source.

Small matter

But yet another source, who was also with Raila at the airport, said the former premier called Uhuru before he left for the airport and the President assured that the “small matter” would be sorted out.

An official with the Opposition coalition said it was a miscalculation on Raila's part to go to the airport as it had “left him with egg on his face".

“He shouldn’t have gone to the airport. People have started questioning whether the handshake was a charade. The scenes were humiliating to a person of his stature,” said the official.

Yesterday, the stand-off over Miguna's entry into the country continued for the second day after he refused to sign citizenship documents. His lawyers said he would not sign the documents from immigration officials as this would be an admission that he had renounced his Kenyan citizenship.

"Our position is that he is a citizen; the courts upheld it. This means the status quo maintains," said lawyer Cliff Ombeta. "What do the courts say order number two?... that he should be provided with documents so he can enter the country, orders didn't say apply. Why? Because they had destroyed his documents," said Mr Ombeta.

In court, lawyers told a judge that Miguna was being detained in a toilet within the airport and that he had not eaten. But police sources said he had spent the night in the lounge and had been offered a meal.

Yesterday, Orange Democratic Movement party Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said Miguna’s return was ordered by the courts hence there was no need for anyone to make calls to intervene.

“I don’t know whether he (Raila) called the President. Ask him… and I have told you that it was not necessary to call anyone. This is a country governed by the rule of law,” said Mr Sifuna.

“You should understand that Miguna’s return was ordered by the courts and was never a subject of the handshake,” he added.

Sifuna said the saga could jolt the unity pact signed between Uhuru and Raila.

“Our party has demonstrated goodwill to the unity agreement, but this unfortunate incident may create suspicion over the pact. It is unacceptable that the Government can subject Miguna to such cruel treatment,” he added.

Nyando MP Jared Opiyo argued the incident could deal a blow to the peace talks.

“The kind of inhumane treatment they are subjecting Mr Miguna to is totally unwarranted. Events such as these are negating the tenets of the handshake,” Mr Opiyo said.

Compensation

“We will never tire of seeking justice. It is our calling and we are determined to continue engaging the courts. We want Miguna compensated for the destruction they have caused to him, including the bombing of his house.”

Opiyo said he would this morning go to court to demand the unconditional release of Miguna, who was born in his constituency.

Meanwhile, the Senate has launched investigations into the Monday night drama, with members expecting an interim report tomorrow. Senate security committee vice chairman Johnson Sakaja yesterday assured the House that the team would give the interim report after getting answers from security and immigration officials.

At JKIA, Ombeta said authorities were forcing Miguna to use his Canadian passport because that way they would be able to control his movements.

"He will only be given a visa as a foreigner, giving him time limits and later use that to arrest him. The courts said he should be here unconditionally," he said.

Miguna spent a cold night at the airport wearing a torn blazer after police dragged him to the Dubai-bound plane. He was locked in a room at JKIA's Terminal 2 after being held from 1.40pm on Monday, lawyers said.

According to his lawyers he did not have his Canadian passport with him.

Sources at the airport said Miguna was given a mattress and also some food to eat. He also asked to have a shower, which was not possible.

Lawyers however said he had not eaten anything for one day and was being held in bad conditions. The lawyers were barred from accessing him yesterday.

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