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Miguna Miguna's return and changing fortunes of other political players

Lawyer Miguna Miguna addresses the media at the JKIA in Nairobi upon arrival from Canada on October 20, 2022. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

Kenyans who were either banished into exile or voluntarily chose to stay away because of politically motivated reasons are now returning home hoping to work with the new government.

Among them is lawyer Miguna Miguna who returned after being away for four years and was treated like a hero by an enthusiastic crowd at the airport and later during the Mashujaa Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens.

Also reprieved are public servants who found themselves in bad books of the government and were haunted out of office over alleged improper conduct or abuse of office.

But as their fortunes change, some politicians in the previous administration are living in fear of the unknown as the purging exercise intensifies.

Among those affected are politicians, senior police officers and other well connected technocrats, including tycoons who invested their fortunes in the side that lost the presidential vote.

The retirement of Inspector of Police Hillary Mutyambai and the saga surrounding the alleged resignation, that turned out to be re-designation of Director of Criminal Investigation George Kinoti appear to be part of the house cleaning exercise.

Persecuted their opponents

“It is difficult to put a finger on what happened to those officers but all indications are that they were ordered to vacate those positions because the relationship was not tenable,” says constitutional lawyer Stanislus Murunga.

Outspoken lawyer and harsh critic of Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee government, Miguna Miguna is probably the most-high profile case of those whose fortunes have changed for the better.

President William Ruto and his deputy have repeatedly said the previous administration harassed and persecuted their opponents.

During the campaigns, Miguna set social media platforms alight with scathing attacks on President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Four weeks ago, President Ruto tweeted that Miguna would return home as the lawyer himself confirmed that he would fly back.

He was issued with a new Kenyan passport, which meant all the red alerts which had been placed against him by the previous government had been quashed.

Miguna has promised to deal with those who tormented him soon after the swearing-in of Raila as the People’s President on January 30, 2018.

He filed cases in court over the destruction of his house in Runda in Nairobi and the arrest and forceful deportation which he won but were disobeyed by the government.

The court had also ordered the return of his Kenyan passport and facilitation of his return home but that was also disobeyed.

“In the coming weeks and months, I will make sure that all those who violated my rights are held accountable for the sake of justice,” he said.

In December 2018, the court directed Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i and Immigration Principal Secretary Gordon Kihalangwa to jointly pay Miguna Sh7.2 million from their own pockets.

Kicked out

High Court Judge Chacha Mwita told them that taxpayers would not bear the burden for their illegal actions.

On the local scene, fortunes have also changed for Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, CS nominees Mithika Linturi and Aisha Jumwa among other senior people in the current administration have had criminal cases against them withdrawn.

Officers investigating Gachagua have withdrawn their evidence in the Sh7.3 billion corruption allegation case against him.

The likes of Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwenda hope all will be well and about two weeks ago was reported to have forced his way back to office but was kicked out again.

He was kicked out in November 2021 by the former government over alleged financial misconduct.

The mess in FKF is among the issues that new Sports CS Ababu Namwamba is expected to deal with should his nomination be approved by Parliament.

Football standards in the country are at an all-time low with little intervention because Kenya was suspended by Fifa from all international competitions.

There were fears that some top people in the Jubilee administration who harassed current leaders would get a taste of their own medicine.

Reports that some Cabinet Secretaries had gone AWOL or had disappeared from the public despite the fact their successors had not been appointed turned out not to be true.

They are keeping a low profile, while attending to some government functions and attending Cabinet meetings at State House.

The relationship between Cabinet Secretaries like Fred Matiangi, Eugene Wamalwa, Keriako Tobiko and Joe Mucheru among others and those in power now, hit rock bottom during the political campaigns.

Some of the CSs who publicly attacked the character of current president appeared uncomfortable in his company during recent meetings at State House and it remains to be seen how they will relate going forward.

Matiang’i, the powerful Cabinet Secretary for Interior had earlier wasted no time in penning a long goodbye letter to colleagues before taking a low profile.

Wamalwa, who was also the CS for Defence and Devolution after Charles Keter resigned from the latter to join politics and Mucheru are also keeping a low profile.

But others like Education CS George Magoha and Raychelle Omamo of Foreign Affairs have continued carrying out their commitments.

Supporters of some Jubilee allied MPs like John Waluke have demanded that corruption cases against them should also be withdrawn.

Last week, MPs Mwambu Mabonga (Bumula), Nabii Nabwera (Lugari) and Peter Salasya (Mumias East) told the media in Nairobi that they will stage protests against the Senate by-elecvtion in Bungoma if the MP is not released. 

Social media platforms were also recently awash with reports that a senior Jubilee administration personality and a close ally of Uhuru was stopped from flying out of the country.

Some UDA MPs who work closely with President Ruto expressed their joy that the politician had been turned back at JKIA as he was preparing to board a flight.

And so it appears the shoe is now on the other foot, despite assurances from the government that there will be no revenge against those who either harassed or mistreated Ruto and his allies when he was the deputy president.

Prof Gitile Naituli of Multi-Media University blames the continued exile and persecution of opponent by successive government on politicians who have refused to discard the bad habits of regimes that ruled Kenya during the single party era.

“We had made good laws which can be exploited to guarantee people’s safety and protection but because you cannot teach old dogs new tricks, there are individual who have stuck to the old ways and have not moved with the current law,” says Prof Naituli.

He urged politicians to embrace the spirit of competition because targeting opponents who have lost elections creates hostility yet those elected are supposed to serve for the good of all Kenyans.

“We have not internalised those facts and that is why we begin threatening other Kenyans, forgetting that elections was just a game within one team called Kenya,” he added.

Before 2002, it was common for Kenyans to go to exile in Europe and the United States because of their political expression and opposition to the Kanu government.

Among them was Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o, a Kenyan writer who ran to the US and later said: “Exile is more than separation.

Political persecution

“It is longing for home and exaggerates its virtues at every encounter with inconvenience and it is worse for a third world passport holder in the west where one becomes a traveling paradox.”

Many Kenyans at the time sought refuge in neighbouring countries, among them hundreds who were returned home from Uganda in 2003 by UNHCR after President Mwai Kibaki took power.

A total of 106 were refugees aligned with “Brigadier” Odongo, the leader of a shadowy dissident group that was accused of trying to stage a coup against the government of Daniel Moi in the early 1990s.

Others fled political persecution by the government, among them members of the February Eighteenth Movement (FERA) who were arrested and detained for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government.

The refugees were overjoyed and flashed the V-for-victory sign as they crossed the border at Malaba.

“It’s a victory that we managed to come back to our homeland. Thank you President Kibaki, thank you,” they told The Standard at the Malaba border crossing then.

In earlier years, prominent lawyers like Gibson Kamau Kuria and Kiraitu Murungi found themselves in exile where they spent many years while those who remained behind like John Khaminwa were detained.