The Biblical character Samson died when he brought down a Philistine temple. He did this by pushing apart the pillars of the Temple of Dagon, bringing down the roof and killing himself and thousands of Philistines who had captured him.
Opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka appear to be bent on exercising the Samsonian option by pushing apart the pillars that hold Kenyan society. How else can one describe calls for secession? What would one call the threat to return to mass action against the Kenya Kwanza government when such action has proved to be inimical to law and order? Yet, going by their recent public utterances, this is what these leaders intend.
Whilst Kalonzo is relatively new to the subversion of government, Raila is the bete noire of insurrections. Not for the first time, he has been involved in events that undermine legitimate rule. He was detained for his alleged involvement in the August 1, 1982 coup against the government of Daniel Moi. He was a beneficiary of the violently disputed presidential elections of 2007, subsequently becoming PM in the détente that followed the deaths of thousands. More recently, he swore himself in as president following the elections of 2017, which he boycotted after a court-sanctioned repeat of the presidential polls.
It has become increasingly clear that Raila threatens the Samsonian option only when administrations are perceived to be at their most vulnerable. His modus operandi involves capitalising on popular grievances to foment resistance and pressure from the masses to bring the changes he desires.
And his true genius is in making his personal ambitions appear to be for the greater public good. True to type, he has called on President William Ruto to “prepare for a battle never witnessed in the country,” and at the same time saying, “this is not about me.” He adds that he is, “acting for posterity, in the best interests of the nation.”
Yet Raila’s statements conflict with numerous others that he has publicly uttered in the past. Take, for instance, his strenuous objection of the 3 per cent housing fund levy proposed in the Finance Bill 2023. As the Azimio presidential candidate last year, Raila vowed to reintroduce the levy after it was shot down in 2018. On the campaign trail, he lauded the levy as “a game-changer that would create a solid foundation for affordable homes for millions.
Another instance where he appears conflicted is in the proposed 16 per cent Value Added Tax on fuel. He has threatened mass action against this tax saying, “Kenyans are too overburdened with a high cost of living and cannot afford more.” But Raila hailed ODM MPs who supported former president Kenyatta’s proposal on the same tax in 2018. At the time, he said, “the president’s proposal was in line with his ambition to seek long-lasting solutions to economic challenges bedeviling the country.”
It is clear to all but the most rabid fanatics of confrontational politics that calls for mass action are not driven by altruistic intentions. Reasons advanced for the stalling of bipartisan talks meant to assuage political tensions appear designed to frustrate the same talks. The opposition has given a raft of conditions that are impossible to meet. Like opening the servers to audit the results of last year’s national elections. Or the reinstatement of four discredited IEBC.
Mr Khafafa is a public policy analyst