By Dikembe Disembe
In a story first carried out by World News Chronicle titled ‘Arrest Warrant Against Prominent Businessman Causes Concern in Kenya‘ we at Kenya Today did not imagine that the Micah Kigen in the story would be the same Kigen in ODM.
Now, this is not a story about ODM or CORD or opposition politics per se, this is another story, a story about a man whose charming public demeanour and strong stand with ODM even at a time Rift Valley was walking out often puzzled me.
However, behind the veneer of candour and the aura of satisfaction, Kigen is carrying within him the burden â€“ both financial and psychological â€“ of a political event whose then beneficiary is now the President of Kenya: Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.
In a larger sense, it is a story about political fixing in Kenya after the fallout in YK-92 KANU which ensured part of the then top players in Moi re-election political machine in 1992 were finished completely of their wealth and stature in society. It is a story about political opportunism and betrayal that has run a whole decade! It is a sad story.
The actors in this story are big, powerful and larger-than-life people but the lesson can still be relevant to the hoi polloi struggling endlessly to put political leaders in power. Because, clearly, this is another story of small people high up in government or working for politicians finding themselves at the losing end.
Some times in 2002, Micah Kipkemboi Kigen was a staunch Uhuru supporter. He was the chairman of the Kanu Action group, a prominent lobby group whose fangs could only be compared to YK-92 a decade earlier. KAG, unlike YK-92 which got Moi elected as the first president after repeal of section 2A of the old constitution, did not get Uhuru to power in 2002. The opposition wave swept the electorate as Uhuru was defeated with a combined political machine campaign machine of LDP/NAK which put Mwai Kibaki to power.
Humiliated in defeat, KANU, then heavily dominated by Kalenjin politicians and a section of the Kikuyu, promised another fight. It is said Uhuru swore after that defeat never to lose another presidential election. And while the cockerel will never crow, Uhuru is the president again, having incubated another bird â€“ the dove.
Between 2002 and 2013 saw a decade whose politics engineered major re-alignments, mergers, walk-outs and reunions that were unimaginable in 2002. The victors of 2002 became the vanquished of 2013. Two referendums, two disputed elections, one inter-ethnic war, a Grand Coalition Government, a second prime minister and so on.
Political players of 2002 changed parties too. Ruto left KANU and joined ODM. Uhuru, as an opposition leader, ‘joined’ the government! A second prime minister was defeated by his former deputy. Democracy, so it was revealed, got tried during the two elections and at the Supreme Court.
As politicians changed their diapers, so were the political nannies. I mean, with the tectonic shifts in alliances and coalitions; new party formations and the death knell of old parties â€“ like DP, LDP,SDP etc â€“ individuals too changed. Those who were in KANU in 2002 became reformists in ODM and now part of the ‘digital dream’ in Jubilee. Those who opposed Moi rule and called Toroitich all manner of names â€“ the opposition of the 1990s â€“ parties like DP and NDP and the Kikuyu/Luo masses who had literally turned their back on the Moi government; these too created new tyrannies and dictatorships as menacing as KANU. I mean, where Moi state oversaw multi-million Goldernberg scandal; Kibaki state engineered theÂ multi-billion Anglo-leasing scandal, and, Kibaki/Raila State too added the Triton Saga and the Maize Scandal!
Where Moi detained everyone, assassinated a few; Kibaki state state too had its share of extra-judicial killings. Already, the first months of Uhuru state has seen the “disappearance” of two former appendages – Bogonko Bosire and Albert Muriuki.
Micah Kigen, the subject of this piece, too changed, or should I say, evolved? In 2002, Kigen was a KANUist and Chairman of the biggest lobby group for Uhuru’s candidature – KANU Action Group – often abbreviated as KAG. In 2007 he was safely in ODM, same as now. In ODM, his lobby group, FORA, which he chaired, was potent team until other lobbies campaigning for Raila Odinga in the 2013 elections muddied the whole political lobbying campaign strategy with disastrous consequences.
Kigen, is a pioneer political lobbyist and campaign strategist. He told this writer he is a ‘veteran’. He belongs to a generation whose lobby machine, YK-92, remains the most successful to date.
Interestingly, much as people often malign former president Moi, his state also developed the practice of political lobbying; a phenomenon quite acceptable as a democratic political practice in western democracies from where most post-colonial Africa owe their political systems, including Kenya.
But for Kigen, something remained immutable; static as the laws of the Medes and the Persians. This was the campaign debt that KANU Action Group (KAG) incurred while attempting to put Uhuru to power in 2002.
Back then, the outstanding debt, after partying with over Ksh 30 million, stood at Ksh 800,461 (according to court documents seen by this writer) which has now accumulated to Ksh1,029,548 when the debt collection and court collection dues were added to it. To reduce the debt to the Ksh 800,461, Kigen saw his houses, vehicles and other machineries auctioned at a throw away prices. It humiliated him, especially, with a family to cater for.
“Were these things to happen to me as an individual, I would have lived by them as a man, an African man. . .but I had a family, I had kids I was schooling. I had dependants I was feeding,” reminisces Kigen.
The initial debt arose as a result of failure by KANU/Uhuru to pay for the campaign materials used by Uhuru campaign during the 2002 campaigns.
In a series of letters and verbal contacts between Kigen and the company which supplied the materials (Capital Colours Creative Design Ltd); and between the company and KANU; and, Kigen to Uhuru; Kigen and Ole Sunkuli (then KANU Secretary General) and Kigen and Moi (former President), including a one week hunger strike in Moi’s Kabarak home, this unpaid debt became Kigen’s burden.
In one particular letter dated November 20th 2003 and addressed to then KANU Secretary General, Mr Julius Ole SunkuliÂ by Osotho Investments, the debt collectors contracted by Capital Colours Designs Ltd, the company wrote to KANU to show commitments towards clearing the debt.
“. . .in order for us to be sure that the payment is indeed being considered, our client would only be faithful if KANU as the sponsoring party also makes genuine commitment in writing that it is indeed liable to clear the outstanding overdue account with our client. . .”
This case went under for some time until in 2010 when Â it was resurrected. Tellingly, 2010 was the same year most senior politicians in the Rift Valley begun showing signs of possible walkout from ODM. Kigen believes the case was revived to finish him politically.
He wrote several Â letters to then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Uhuru Kenyatta, now President, Kigen calls Uhuru’s attention to his situation.
“As you are aware, during the campaigns leading to the 2002 elections, KANU Action Group (KAG) a lobby group actively backed your candidature for the presidency. . .back, and as of now, your suitability for the highest office in the land was and will never be in doubt. KAG support was therefore solid and equivocal”.
Kigen continues in the letter, “. . .by the end of the exercise, huge sums of money remained unpaid and outstanding. I have had to bear the burden singularly as I was the Chairman of KAG and the only tangible authority to be held responsible . . . subsequently; I have lost so much property by way of public auction. . .”
In another letter, Kigen wrote to Uhuru, “. . .It transpires that an Order of Execution…has been issued which exposes me to the horrid reality of arrest and committal to a civil jail. . .such an eventuality will be far reaching in damages and irreparable. . .”
Kigen, clutching at every feeble straw in his way, again reminded Uhuru of the outstanding debt and the lengths KAG and himself went to campaign for Uhuru in 2002:
“Mheshimiwa, remember this task was undertaken in good faith in the firm belief of your viability as a credible candidate in the presidential contest. This confidence in you still stands and you will need this same set up in the foreseeable future to satisfy the ambition that is dear to the hearts of many as it is to yours. . .I beseech you to do me the right turn and rescue me from this undue shame and embarrassment”.
Sadly, Uhuru, despite showing interest in assisting bring this debt to an end, developed cold feet.
To Kigen, Uhuru’s behaviour may have been caused by pressure within the then KANU leadership in the Rift Valley. The plot, which Kigen would intimate to Uhuru, “. . .in the tricky arena of politics, you cannot rule out vengeance and cold play. . .” remains the biggest obstacle to clearing the debt. Within Rift Valley, there seems to exist an unwritten political rule that the enemy must be fatally vanquished by all means possible.
Kigen’s case is not unique. There are many political losers fighting never ending wars with those who went to the Moi School of politics. Much as the country ostracises members of the outlawed YK-92 for running down the country in the 1990s, the same system which built them in several occasions crushed many of them.
For example, the never ending battles between Cyrus Jirongo and the government stems from the post YK-92 fallout in which Jirongo, among other YK-92 young Turks, barely two months after ensuring YK made KANU and Moi trounce the opposition, was accused of plotting to topple the government by help of Yoweri Museveni in an arrangement where Kenneth Matiba would be sworn in.
These intricacies have never been revisited because KANU is still very much alive; remember, even a colossus institution like Raila Odinga could not write everything in his recent memoir, warning that the ground has not substantially shifted to accommodate the tumultuous 1980s!
Sad as it is, Kigen lost plum properties to repay a debt that old KANU acolytes saw as an opportunity to financially finish him. Former President Moi refused to clear the debt as the then KANU Chairman. Ole Sunkuli refused to help. Uhuru, who would have been the 2002 beneficiary of the KAG mobilization, jinxed out.
As a man repaid political debts with own personal fortune, he saw his wealth disappear one property after the other. From prime houses to vehicles, the fall was fast and hard.
“I sacrificed for Uhuru. It is a sacrifice most of the people in this nature of work often do. Lobbyists are the unsung heroes of political leaders. They are the chief mobilizers. However, once an election is over, no one wants to look back at you. Across many parties today, there are tens of others who did everything to ensure these leaders get the political positions they wanted, or rise to the prominence that would allow them fight it out at a latter time,” Â says Kigen. “Leaders need to look back,” he quips.
To Kigen, the poor institutionalization of political lobbying has seen individuals lose out when their godfathers take over; or lose out altogether. But the lack of appreciation, as simple as it can get, just complicates the matter. Political leaders in Kenya have perfected the catch-phrase: Use-and-dump.
It is even egregious when some of the politicians are themselves very wealthy Kenyans. One would ask: How much could it cost Uhuru Kenyatta, then KANU leader, to pay this debt? If not Uhuru, former president Moi? The failure then is attributed to a culture that glorifies betrayal of close aides and supporters in politics.
Because the debt still stands, one only hopes President Uhuru Kenyatta will finally recognize this decade old wrong and correct it. For a politician, it is never too late.