Who is Raila Odinga?
This is the second time I revisit Raila’s tour in the United States. When I first thought about it, I wondered: what the hell is Raila doing in USA? I argued that Mr Odinga should use the tour to recast the debate about the meaning of ‘America’ in 21st century Africa.You can read my thoughts then here.
Today, something else intrigued me about the trip: Raila’s diplomatic treatment by the Jubilee Alliance government.
When Raila entered the US, he started his tour by being a guest at the prestigious African Presidential Centre in Boston. When the Jubilee Alliance heard this, its mouth soldiers were everywhere, with Kiharu MP Irungu Kangata questioning the ‘admissibility’ of Raila to the leadership institution at Boston University.
It took the blunt “go to hell” response by conveners of the event to silence Kangata – a TNA first time MP from Central Province.
Interestingly, when Raila was leaving the country, he publicly revealed that he had informed both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto about his trip. Why was it important for him to do so? So that President Uhuru can use his powers to extend a courtesy which the nation expects him to.
What this meant was that even with his fierce competition for the presidency, Raila has never lost the respect for the two ruling leaders. It is called political courtesy. The ability to accept who is in charge, and, without much ado, move on. You all will appreciate that Raila never openly discusses the legitimacy of Uhuru’s presidency outside Kenya.
Has this government shown it is worth its political claim to legitimate power?
Several weeks in his tour, the Kenyan diplomatic apparatus, an extension of the Kenyan government, Â has treated Raila’s tour with the ‘contempt’ it deserves.
In a country with mature leadership, nothing stops Uhuru from being magnanimous in power.
What is Kenya’s ambassador to the US, Ms Jean Njeri Kamau, busy doing to the extent that she cannot even make a call to the former premier? It may look stupid but diplomacy the world over is about niceties – etiquette.
In all his tour of the US, the diplomatic apparatus of a country famed for its ‘good nurtured people’ Â has given the tour a wide berth. The brand Kenya campaign meant to market kenya as top tourist destination with ‘friendly people’ comes a cropper when the world witnesses the spectre of high level neglect of the country’s best known political figure.
This politica and diplomatic rejection of Mr Odinga starkly contrasts the treatment given to Raila’s counterpart, Hon Fredrick Sumaye, the former Prime Minister of Tanzania.
The Tanzanians attached a first diplomatic officer to their former premier whom, according to sources, awkwardly extended diplomatic protocol courtesies to his Kenyan neighbour.
What is it in our country which so elevates political competition to open enmity? Where Tanzanians see an appreciation of their country’s leaders at a global stage, Kenyans see a continuation of our internal idiotic politics of exclusion and damnation.
Another African example are the Ghanains. The people of Ghana long accepted the global stature of Kofi Annan. Here in Kenya, in some quarters, Annan, despite his international person status, is cheap western stooge who ‘worked tirelessly with the west’ to fix some people.
Where the people of Ghana Â saw their President, John Kufour, as a continental peacemaker in East Africa, it was not long before Raila’s peace message to the West Africa restive nation of Ivory Coast was lowered to fit into the petty PNU politics of Laurent Gbagbo by then aÂ government propaganda machine headed by Dr Alfred Mutua, now Machakos Governor.
It is this same political cheapness that has made the country waste millions in renting an old fossiled gukaÂ an office that he neither needs nor can actively function in, while neglecting those still with the energy and zeal to serve actively our international commerce, trade and security needs.
This Jubilee government is struggling to patch up a global image of a country mastering its ‘African’ destiny in the most absurd ways. It can bring its whole diplomatic energy to weigh on AU but can’t muster the courage to use that zest to accord a significant citizen of our country a treatment befitting of a sovereign democracy.
There is a problem with this country’s current foreign policy priorities.
Caption photo: Raila Odinga laying a wreath at the burial site of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King.
By Dikembe Disembe