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12.01.2010 Kenya

Questioning Miguna's Kenyanness shows Kibaki patry's desperation

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PNU's desperate plot to discredit Miguna Miguna, permanent secretary and prime minister's advisor on coalition affairs, will fail. As outdated as it is, the constitution stipulates that a Kenyan loses his/her citizenship only by renouncing it. That is why people like Raila Odinga, who at one time travelled on foreign passports, are still Kenyan to the bone. Jaramogi too travelled on a foreign passport.

Irrespective of its progressive provision on this one element, the current constitution is a lifeless charter given its fundamental failings and overwhelming consensus on the need to bring it in tandem with Kenya 's contemporary challenges. In our decades-old search for a new constitution, dual citizenship has not been contentious. In this sense the subsisting misdemeanour of holding a foreign passport contradicts the aspirations of the more enlightened segments of our citizenry.

Just like Jaramogi and Raila, Miguna had no control over the events that resulted in his obtaining a foreign passport. But perhaps he had. As a university student, he could have studied peacefully and lived happily by keeping quiet on the gross inequities that have festered in our society for decades, and that only he, a handful of colleagues on campus and other dissidents so loudly detested in the 1980's.

What cannot be in doubt is that it is for the cumulative struggles and sacrifices by people like Miguna that Kenyans can today challenge the president without being deported. It testifies to PNU's liberation credentials that not one of its officials was detained, exiled or held for crimes of conscience. Those among them who spoke out against Kanu-era excesses were pragmatic enough to do it within the confines of their homes, from NGO platforms or loudly only after the repeal of Section 2A.

None of this is to say that ODM is utopia. But it says something about the party that quite a few of its top officials paid heavily for fighting dictatorship. Of these Raila's nine years of incarceration is the most known. But there were also Miguna, Anyang' Nyongo, James Orengo, and Salim Lone, Raila's former spokesman, who was taken to the Nyayo House torture chambers in 1986 before being deported and having his nationality revoked for “disloyalty” to the government.

The same tactics on citizenship have been employed elsewhere in Africa . Zimbabwe 's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is the latest case in point. Rejected by his country (Mugabe) Tsvangirai was offered Botswana 's travel documents right up to the power-sharing deal when his citizenship was “restored”. His crime was to defeat Mugabe in a free and fair election.

It is hardly surprising that Miguna, being Raila's coalition adviser and joint secretary to the Grand Coalition Management Committee, unnerves some people. If we have never come so near to getting a new constitution, then those whose destiny is twinned with the dying order have never felt so desperate. In these critical moments, fighting misrule comes with renewed consequences, so the campaign to malign Miguna.

Three weeks ago, a TV channel only at the last minute rescinded an expose on how Miguna was frustrating consensus-building on the constitution, after discovering that it was being misused by propagandists! This was after he refused to participate in a comparative analysis of the executive arrangement in 54 African countries, some well known basket cases, as PNU negotiators were demanding.

It is abhorrent that any strategist can sink so low as to question Miguna's obvious Kenyan nationality. But these people are adept at learning from the worst of African examples. They care less that such tactics have failed. But they are cringing at the real spectre of losing power under a more democratic constitution, and will try everything to subvert the process.

Questioning the selflessness that drove Miguna into exile is audacious but also fateful; they hope to poison debate on national issues, even on the revised harmonised draft, and to trigger an environment of political intolerance and ethnic polarisation. The KKK alliance did not achieve that. Neither did the Mau. Now they will clutch to anything.

The writer, a former press officer in ODM and the PM's Office, works for an international consultancy in Nairobi . E-mail: [email protected]

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