The trappings of the Presi- dency are like staring into the abyss of moral deprav- ity. Often, those who set down upon this road either become caricatured gods in the pinnacle of history or simply implode slowly into the dregs of history. Unmistakably, NASA presi- dential candidate Raila Odinga will go down in Kenya’s history as a figure of controversy. His checkered career in politics has been primarily defined by inertia to power.
Like a Leprechaun- the presidency continues to elude him at every turn. The allure of the presidency has been more of a bane than a benison to the former Prime Minister. Despite all this, he arguably remains (and will remain) ‘The Enigma of Politics’ in Kenya’s pantheon of significant figures. Unlike Raila, Uhuru’s leader- ship comes off as indecisive and reluctant to wield the iron scep- ter as is often required.
Uhuru is not a master strategist like Raila, Moi or Kibaki and does not pos- sess the alchemy to manage an economy like the latter did (but what he lacks in these things he makes up for it in his magnetiz- ing congeniality and soft power approach to economic develop- ment that has won him plau- dits). That said, Raila is a dia- metrically different proposition to Uhuru.
Kajiado Travesty The recent remarks by Raila while campaigning in Kajiado have cast him back into a sil- houette sinking down the rabbit hole of violence extremism. His utterances were nothing short of alarming for a statesman of his ilk. Anyone of an informed mind reviewing his campaign strat- egy in Kajiado will quickly real- ize that Raila was deliberately stoking the embers of conflict through his borderline state- ments.
As a result, the question comes to bear, what was Raila hoping to accomplish by his ut- terances? Why make such state- ments when he clearly knows that violence during electoral periods has killed at least 4,433 people and displaced over 1.8 million Kenyans since the intro- duction of multi-partyism in 1991? Argo, this brings us to the enigmatic and controversial figure that is Raila Odinga.
Dance with Violent Extremism During the launch of Mi- guna Minguna’s book on Raila Odinga (Peeling Back the Mask) some few years ago, Paul Muite speaking at the launch quipped: “There is some unfinished business about the attempted coup d’état in 1982.
I think Ke- nyans would wish to hear the views of the Prime Minister so that people can be able to prop- erly put into context the demo- cratic credentials, respect for the law and constitutionalism… The Prime Minister should tell Ke- nyans… was he aware before the elections about this formula of 41 against one? Was he a benefi- ciary? It is ethnic mobilization. He should tell Kenyans what he knew about it.”
Despite denying his involve- ment in the1982 attempted coup for quite some time- he eventu- ally conceded to his central role in the event- in his biography Enigma written by Babafemi Badejo. Obviously, this was done in the full knowledge that no le- gal action could be taken against him due to the legal statute of limitation. In regards to the 2007 post-election violence, the jury is still out there on the extent of his involvement.
Nonetheless, there- in we find Raila’s major gambit, violent extremism. The former Prime Minister has often shown (both explic- itly and tacitly) that he has no qualms in invoking violence as a political expediency. Raila is a master of realpolitik. And as such, entities to this school of thought vehemently believe that violent extremism has great util- ity thus making it a cogent po- litical instrument.
For Raila, the use of violence is simply an es- calation of political discourse to secure an advantage (invariably selfish), nothing more. Since his early days in the former Soviet Union (while studying there); it seems Raila was primed in the stratagem of violence.
Actu- ally, one of his university proj- ects focused on the artifice of nail bomb making. Now, while such creative license in educa- tion should be applauded (and in itself it’s benign), in the grand scheme of things such proclivi- ties were informing Raila’s sche- ma on the use of violence that would ultimately culminate with the 1982 attempted coup d›état.
Discrediting Institutions In a previous article titled ‘Al- legations, Rigging Ghosts & Pow- er Plays: Electoral Malfeasance’, i observed how through a strategy of ‘Hellfire’, Raila is systemati- cally discrediting key stakehold- ers in the electoral process as a fail-safe should he not win the August 2017 polls.
The IEBC has especially bore the brunt of this assault. This is because in the overall scheme of things; IEBC was always ground-zero. Like an Uzi sub-machine gun, Raila (and his cohorts) have continuously pelted the IEBC at every turn with accusations. Raila has been so brilliant at this strategy that IEBC is just bewil- dered as it sinks into the abyss of counter-accusations and trying to extinguish different fires with- in a constrained time frame.
At this juncture, it will not be unfair and superfluous to say that the IEBC is suffering from a cred- ibility crisis in the public sphere. The legitimacy of a represen- tative democracy is based on the belief that officials in govern- ment were chosen fairly and it was at the behest of the people’s will.
To suggest a rigged corrupt electoral process, is to under- mine that legitimacy. Absent the legitimacy of elected officials; the laws they enact and repre- sent also lose their legitimacy. Tom Tyler in his book ‘Why People Obey the Law’ argues that the perceived legitimacy of a law (and therein the will to follow it or not) is affected by the per- ceived legitimacy and credibility of the persons in-charge.
In parallel to this action, Raila has also accused the security apparatus of being conscripted as part of a plan to rig the elec- tions. On 24th January 2017, Opposition leader Raila accused the National Intelligence Ser- vice (NIS) of recruiting foreign persons specifically Uganda and Ethiopia as potential vot- ers in the concluded mass voter registration. Furthermore, just recently, he accused the KDF of being prepped by Jubilee to rig the August elections. Now, there might be truth or none, in these allegations.
That is not my con- cern for now. What is emerging, under the verbiage of political propaganda, the Raila narrative is not or- ganic. It’s not a reaction. Rather, it’s a functional gambit that (ex- pertly conceived years before 2017) has been aided by Jubilee’s structural inadequacies.
Scare campaigns during elec- toral cycles are a common tactic of guerilla warfare. Entities with limited economic or social power will more often than not conjure up specters of electoral rigging in an attempt to nullify the vast resources of their rivals. As long as there is no verifiable evidence that can be adduced in a court of law; these attempts boil down to propagandas’ with the intent of shaping public opinion.
This is further aggravated by the media who inadvertently pick up these allegations and amplify (without checking their veracity) thereby fattening the proverbial boogey- man of electoral rigging.
Tony Njoroge is a Researcher on International Relations. firstname.lastname@example.org