By Sara Elderkin.
It is very noticeable, reading the newspapers lately, that the Kijana Wamalwa myth lives on. What is more, it seems to be coming in especially handy just now, as a stick with which to beat a certain presidential candidate, as evidenced in several recently quoted remarks â€“ particularly from some Western Province MPs. (No prizes for guessing why thatâ€™s happening at this particular time.)
Ikolomani MP Bonnie Khalwale was recently quoted as saying that, â€œUpon Jaramogiâ€™s death in 1994, Raila attempted to wrestle the chairmanship of Ford-Kenya from Kijana Wamalwa, who had stood by his father. He abandoned Wamalwa after a bitter fight.â€ Nominated MP Musikari Komboâ€™s contribution was that, â€œWhen Kijana Wamalwa democratically took over Ford-Kenya after the death of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Raila fought him viciously and withdrew his support.â€ As we shall see, these versions of events bear very little resemblance to what actually happened, and why.
I donâ€™t know where Khalwale was in 1994, possibly hardly out of short trousers, but his first foray into parliamentary politics ended last year when the High Court found that his 2007 election was marred by irregularities. Khalwale won the ensuing by-election on a New Ford-Kenya ticket but he has apparently never forgiven ODM leader Raila Odinga for supporting Khalwaleâ€™s ODM rival. So far, so childish.
Kombo in 1994 was to be found languishing at home in Webuye, his less-than-illustrious parliamentary career having been cut short when the High Court found him guilty of election offences involving witchcraft during his 1992 campaign. Kombo was disqualified and barred from contesting the ensuing by-election. He is in parliament today courtesy of his presidential benefactor.
Michael Kijana Wamalwaâ€™s political history goes back much further, to the early 1970s. My own first meeting with the genial chap we knew as Mike came 40 years ago, in 1972, when we both played tennis at Invergara Club, the first private membersâ€™ club in Kenya to have a substantial African membership.
Prior to Independence, such clubs had not been open to Africans and, in 1972, when Mike joined, the nature of Invergaraâ€™s tennis membership was still something of a phenomenon. Many members either were or would be prominent in Kenyan society or elsewhere. We Invergarans were a cosmopolitan and rather dynamic (we thought so, anyway) crowd â€“ most of us in our 20s and some a bit more, and all of us keen to enjoy the atmosphere of post-Independence freedom and change and the seemingly endless possibilities that characterised those years.
And Mike fitted right in, quickly endearing himself to the rest of us. In his dazzling tennis whites, he was a moderate player and an amenable companion. He was also a great lover of women, urbane, ever-smiling, always charming â€“ and never on time for appointments. He had cultivated a speaking accent that led many to refer (erroneously) to his language as â€˜Queenâ€™s Englishâ€™, and which also gave rise to the myth that he had attended Oxford University.
Mike was never at Oxford University. When, years later, we spoke of it, he gave a shrug and a wry smile and wondered why he should correct this public misapprehension. He was happy to let the myth stand, and even to encourage it by hinting at a love of Shakespeare and classical music. Mike studied law at Kingâ€™s College London, from where he went on to the London School of Economics. He was called to the bar at Lincolnâ€™s Inn in 1970, after which he returned to Kenya and joined the University of Nairobi to teach law.
Unfortunately, Mikeâ€™s university teaching career ended rather abruptly, following an incident where he swanned off to Mombasa on holiday, taking final-year student exam scripts with him for marking, lost the scripts and fictionalised the marks â€“ which he injudiciously pitched far higher than those of any other lecturer.
This drew the eye of the external examiner, who demanded the scripts for checking. When the story came out, Mike was summarily sacked by vice-chancellor (later vice-president) Dr Josephat Karanja. Mike retreated into farming, but he was not much of a farmer either, and he resorted to selling off plots of land from his familyâ€™s extensive holdings in Kitale, so that he could keep himself in the style to which he had become accustomed. For if there was anything Mike did have, it was style. Style, charm and social flamboyance. And perhaps it was that flamboyance and that sense of limitless possibility that led Mike suddenly to announce to us in 1974 that he planned to stand for Parliament.
We received this news with astonishment. In those days, parliament, for all its faults, did not consist largely of semi-literates, conmen, drug dealers, street brawlers and loudmouths. Mike was none of these but he was at heart a party-loving playboy (and I donâ€™t mean political parties), and his announcement appeared to us rather on a par with, say, your hair stylist suddenly declaring that tomorrow she will be captaining a Kenya Airways jet.
Wamalwa stood for parliament that year, 1974. Characteristically flamboyant, he became one of the first, if not the first, to campaign using aircraft, and he spent vast sums of money on rallies (definitely not the last to do so). He did not win the seat but subsequently, under the tutelage of veteran politician Masinde Muliro, he managed to claim it five years later, in 1979.
Cut to 1992, and the makers of Ford (the party that grew from an idea conceived by Raila Odinga and James Orengo) were looking for leaders from different regions of the country to represent the face of Kenya. They invited Muliro to join them as a founding member representing Western Province. Sadly, Muliroâ€™s contribution was cut short. On August 14, 1992, on his return from a Ford fundraising trip to London, Muliro collapsed and died at Nairobi airport.
It was at this point that Wamalwa, who had not previously been involved in Ford and was not one of the original â€˜Young Turksâ€™, came on to the scene, as a member of the Ford committee set up to plan Muliroâ€™s funeral. About the time of Muliroâ€™s death, Ford split into two factions that became two discrete parties â€“ Ford-Kenya under the leadership of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Ford-Asili under Kenneth Matiba. Raila and others set to work organising Ford-Kenyaâ€™s internal structure.
Soon, a national delegatesâ€™ conference was called. It was held at Nairobiâ€™s City Stadium, and the most eagerly awaited business of the day was the partyâ€™s national elections. (I was present and personally observed all that happened.) It was a foregone conclusion that Jaramogi would be the party leader, but he was an old man and, obviously with eyes on the future, there was keen competition for the first vice-chairmanâ€™s post. The competition was between Paul Muite, then an aspiring Kikuyu constituency MP, and James Osogo, a former MP for Budalangi and former minister in Kenyattaâ€™s government.
Muite had campaigned heavily on the platform of â€˜Time for the Young Turksâ€™ and he had the support of the delegates. A defeated Osogo refused to be persuaded to stand for the second vice-chairmanâ€™s post, and he left in a huff. At that point, Wamalwa approached Raila and asked Raila to support him for the post. Wamalwa pleaded that he had been busy with Muliroâ€™s funeral arrangements, that he had not had time to campaign, he had been in Kanu until recently, nobody knew who he was, and so on.
Many Western delegates had walked out with Osogo, but Wamalwa told Raila he had persuaded those from Trans Nzoia to remain, and he said that, if only Raila personally would propose his name, he knew those delegates would vote for him. He said he was pleading with Raila â€œfor old timesâ€™ sakeâ€ (presumably a reference to when they were both teaching at the university).
Prof Ouma Muga, who would win the Rangwe seat later that year, was conducting the elections and Raila asked him to announce Wamalwaâ€™s candidacy, and to say specifically that Raila was proposing him. When the vote came, it was undoubtedly Railaâ€™s support that tipped the balance for Wamalwa, and he was elected Ford-Kenyaâ€™s second vice-chairman.
Wamalwa, by his own admission, had been in Kanu until very recently. He had never been part of the struggle for change. His high-flying, all-partying lifestyle had unfortunately also left him heavily in debt, and he was unable to portray what Jaramogi felt was an appropriate image for a senior party official. Wamalwa had been living with a woman at her house in Madaraka Estate, but now Jaramogi said he must be properly accommodated.
Wamalwa was thus given a fairly new car that had belonged to Raila, a Peugeot 505, and a beautiful house was rented for him in Kileleshwa. All the furniture, curtains, carpets and so on were bought and installed and, when everything was ready, Wamalwa moved in. Wamalwa still had other problems, mostly connected with his farming. He needed money for ploughing and harrowing and seeds and fertiliser and top-dressing and harvesting â€“ and Jaramogi shelled out for all of it. Raila organised this on Jaramogiâ€™s behalf, and he did everything possible to make sure Wamalwa was comfortable.
In the elections at the end of that year, Wamalwa captured the Saboti seat and re-entered parliament. Jaramogi, elected MP for Bondo, became leader of the opposition and, by virtue of that, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. A few months later, in mid-1993, the Goldenberg story broke. It had many repercussions and one of them was that Muite decided to leave Ford-Kenya. That left the first vice-chairman slot vacant. Wamalwa, still second vice-chairman, joined the Public Accounts Committee as Ford-Kenyaâ€™s second member.
Towards the end of 1993, Jaramogiâ€™s health deteriorated and on January 20, 1994, the devastating news came from Kisumu that he had passed away. This obviously pushed all other matters to the sidelines. The country plunged into mourning and Ford-Kenya began a tense week or so of battle with the government over the nature and site of Jaramogiâ€™s funeral and burial. (That is a story for another day.) Eventually, all was arranged and Jaramogiâ€™s final journey home to his last resting-place in Bondo came to pass.
It was shortly after the burial that Kombo lost his Webuye seat due to the High Courtâ€™s finding that witchcraft had been extensively employed during his election campaign. Back in Nairobi, and still reeling from shock over Jaramogiâ€™s death, Ford-Kenya leaders called an emergency meeting of the partyâ€™s national executive committee.
After members had had a chance to express their grief and sorrow, we turned to the urgent matter of leadership of the party. Raila immediately stood up. He began by thanking members for their support for his family in their time of loss, and for the hard work done to ensure that Jaramogi had been given a fitting send-off. Then, without further ado, Raila proposed that Wamalwa be confirmed as leader of the party. The proposal was accepted by acclamation. Some time later, Orengo was elected Wamalwaâ€™s deputy (also a story for another day).
The Public Accounts Committee of parliament had, under Jaramogiâ€™s chairmanship, already concluded its consideration of the scandalous Goldenberg issue, which had featured prominently and very negatively in the controller and auditor-generalâ€™s report. PAC had written its own report, which awaited tabling in the House. The report noted the illegality of the entire Goldenberg scam, and recommended that all the money illegally acquired be refunded and the perpetrators be prosecuted.
Wamalwa, now leader of the opposition, had also succeeded Jaramogi as PAC chairman. He found himself suddenly invited by the House Speaker of the time, Francis ole Kaparo, to Kaparoâ€™s office, where Wamalwa was asked to reconvene PAC and revisit the Goldenberg issue. Wamalwa was in a quandary, and he went straight to Railaâ€™s office in Agip House, told him what had happened and asked Raila what he should do. Raila told him in no uncertain terms that the Goldenberg affair had been concluded as far as PAC was concerned, and he advised Wamalwa not to reconvene the committee.
It was therefore shocking to hear, later that day, an announcement on the radio that Wamalwa was recalling PAC members. Some complained. Henry Obwocha, MP for West Mugirango, said he had been irregularly summoned by the local chief. Kibwezi MPAgnes Ndetei said the local district commissioner had gone to her home at night. But PAC sat and reconsidered its report. Wamalwa eventually took a vote on it, and the committee was split right down the middle, 4-4 â€“ that is, four voting for clearing the Goldenberg suspects and regularising the irregular, and four for sticking with the original report as compiled under Jaramogi. Wamalwa gave his casting vote. It was 5-4 for exoneration of Pattni and all the other wrongdoers.
In an unprecedented move, PAC then presented two reports to the House, reflecting PACâ€™s internal division. The House rejected this as a nullity and referred the matter to the next sessionâ€™s Public Accounts Committee. In the next parliamentary session, Raila (by then MP for Langata) joined PAC as Ford-Kenyaâ€™s second member, replacing Wamalwa who was now chairman. The committee agreed on how it would go about reviewing the Goldenberg issue, as ordered by the House. It would recall all the people adversely mentioned in the auditor-generalâ€™s report, and re-interview them. Raila made clear his intent that the full details of the scam would be laid bare.
The alleged perpetrators were interviewed one by one and eventually it came to Goldenberg architect Kamlesh Pattniâ€™s turn. PAC customarily sat Tuesdays to Thursdays, and Pattni was due to appear on a Tuesday. At the PAC meeting on the Thursday of the previous week, Raila reminded his colleagues that he was travelling to Maputo that night, where he had an engagement as a resource person for the US International Republican Institute. He would return early the following Tuesday morning, in time for Pattniâ€™s interview.
After Railaâ€™s plane touched down that Tuesday, he could not immediately see his driver, who, it turned out, had parked on the other side of the airport. Anxious to be in time for PAC, Raila jumped into a taxi and rushed to parliament, where he found the committee in session. He sat down, and then, after a few minutes, one of the other members whispered to him that Pattni had already been interviewed â€“ on the previous Saturday and Monday, days on which PAC had never before sat.
A shocked Raila realised this had been done to ensure that he was not present for the interview. When the meeting ended, he went to Hansard and looked up the deliberations he had missed. He discovered that Pattni had been confronted with no probing questions at all, only with leading questions clearly designed to help cover up and sanitise the Goldenberg affair.
At the next PAC meeting, Raila pointed out critical issues that had been missed and said he wanted Pattni recalled. Wamalwaâ€™s response was to lament that the committee could not redo its work every time some member happened to be absent, and that, in the case under review, this would be â€œunfair to Pattniâ€. However, he finally reluctantly agreed that Pattni be re-interviewed.
When Pattni next appeared, he was confronted by Raila with questions about the non-existence in Switzerland of companies to which Pattni had said he was exporting gold and diamonds. Pattni now changed his tune to say that, actually, those companies were registered not in Switzerland, as he had earlier said, but in Gibraltar.
Raila also pointed out the ridiculousness of Pattniâ€™s claim that diamonds and gold were being processed at Goldenbergâ€™s offices in View Park Towers in Nairobi. From a purely technical point of view, said Raila, and considering the chemicals to be used if this had indeed been happening, View Park Towers should by now be surrounded by a cloud of serious pollution.
After the interview and Pattniâ€™s unsatisfactory answers, Raila took it upon himself to contact the Gibraltar authorities. They confirmed the non-existence of Pattniâ€™s companies in Gibraltar. Raila tabled this evidence at the next PAC meeting â€“ but instead of welcoming it, Wamalwa accused Raila of conducting a witchhunt against Pattni, and of having â€œvested interestsâ€. (Indeed, he did. His interest was the truth.)
Wamalwa went on to say that it was not PACâ€™s responsibility to conduct investigations, and that the committee must go by the evidence submitted by the accounting officers â€“ who in most cases were the permanent secretaries in the affected ministries. (It might be remembered that permanent secretaries were subsequently among those indicted on Goldenberg-related charges.)
Raila was â€œflabbergastedâ€, as he put it, that his efforts had come to naught. He pointed out that accounting officers had been unable to give satisfactory answers to queries raised by the auditor-general. The alleged perpetrators had contradicted both themselves and each other before the committee.
The auditor-general, who was present in the meeting but had no vote, supported Railaâ€™s stand. But it was eventually in vain. The committee decided unanimously, with the exception of Raila, to vote for Pattniâ€™s exoneration and to ask parliament to regularise retroactively any irregular issues. To top it all, and defying all reason, PAC under Wamalwaâ€™s chairmanship recommended that Pattni be paid a further shs.2.1 billion of public money.
Raila, in disbelief, insisted that his objections be registered. Wamalwa responded, in clear contradiction of what had happened previously, that PAC â€œnever votedâ€ on its decisions, which it always reached â€œby consensusâ€. Railaâ€™s dissent would not be noted, he ruled. After the meeting, Raila, deeply unsettled, decided to ensure that his objections were recorded, by writing formally to Wamalwa, saying he was unable to accept or be party to a conclusion reached in the face of glaring inconsistencies in the evidence presented. He said he could not agree that the Goldenberg affair was not a crime, and that there had been no irregularities, and that no money had been lost.
Raila sent the letter with a delivery book to Wamalwaâ€™s office, where it was signed for. He then put a copy of the letter in the parliamentary pigeonhole of each PAC member. A couple of days later, he met Baringo North MP Willy Kamuren in the House lobby, and Kamuren laughingly told him, â€œNimepata barua yako â€“ kali, kali, kali!â€ (â€œI have received your letter â€“ very harsh!â€).
It was clear to Raila that PAC had been compromised. Several members of the committee suddenly appeared driving new cars, among them Mercedes Benzes and Range Rovers, and one member who owed a huge debt at his private membersâ€™ club and whose name had been â€˜postedâ€™ appeared with enough cash to liquidate the entire sum and dish out Ksh.5,000 to each club employee.
Eventually, the PAC report was tabled in the House, and all hell broke loose. Everyone was shocked at its recommendations. Raila was called by then Nation editor Mutegi Njau and, since the cat was now out of the bag and everyone was aware that Raila alone had objected to PACâ€™s findings, he decided to give Mutegi a copy of the letter he had written to Wamalwa.
PAC met the next day under extreme pressure from the media and everyone else. Damage control was now the sole agenda. Member George Nyanja remarked that only Raila among them was comfortable, because he had noted his objections in a letter. Oh? said Wamalwa disingenuously. You mean there was a letter, George? I received no letter. Wamalwaâ€™s feigned ignorance was a calculated move, one that he was to repeat in parliament.
Raila saw that there was now no way of stopping Wamalwa regarding Goldenberg. In his frustration, Raila decided to try and forestall parliamentary discussion of the matter by instituting a private prosecution against Prof George Saitoti, who had been minister for finance when the massive payments to Pattni were irregularly approved.
The Hansard record shows that, when the Goldenberg and PAC issue came up for discussion in parliament the following week, while Wamalwa was able to make his case, Raila, who tried repeatedly to speak in response, was called to order by the Speaker on every occasion, and told he could not address the issue because it was â€œsub judiceâ€. But only for Raila, apparently.
In no time at all, attorney-general Amos Wako stepped in, took over investigations and entered a nolle prosequi in the Saitoti case. That it was a major issue for the government was demonstrated by the fact that Wako was summoned home from a meeting in South America in order to do this. Like all sessional committees, PAC would be reconstituted at the beginning of the next parliamentary session, when the Goldenberg issue would continue to be dealt with. So the next move was to ensure that Raila would no longer be a member.
Wamalwa convened a parliamentary group meeting, at which Raila was present, where Wamalwa criticised him for â€œembarrassingâ€ and â€œdisrespectingâ€ Wamalwa in PAC. He said he no longer wanted Raila as a member. A vote was taken, and Raila was removed from the committee.
And that, for the record (Are you listening, Messrs Khalwale and Kombo?) was the fundamental point of departure for Raila. He realised that if the country was to proceed to the reforms everyone had dreamed of, Wamalwa would not be the one to lead them. Goldenberg was so big, its resolution so absolutely necessary and so basic to the cause of transparency, accountability and ending corruption, that, as far as Raila was concerned, Wamalwaâ€™s decisions had struck the final and fatal blow to their continued mutual journey.
Raila now wanted the Ford-Kenya governing council summoned to discuss the matter. Wamalwa refused. A petition was organised, in line with the partyâ€™s Constitution, but Wamalwa continued to ignore the issue. It was only when some members went to court that it was ruled a national delegatesâ€™ conference must be held.
Some party veterans tried to intervene and engineer Wamalwaâ€™s expulsion but Raila insisted on going for the delegatesâ€™ conference. It was now 1996, and the conference was to be held at Thika municipal stadium. Archbishop Manasses Kuria had been asked to preside. On the day, the delegates assembled, and they sat as if in opposing camps. Those allied to Raila outnumbered those allied to Wamalwa by about three to one. Registration began at 7am (once again, I was there) and the meeting proper was supposed to start at 9am.
Wamalwa was very late, as always, arriving around lunchtime, and Kuria arrived almost immediately afterwards, the timing suggesting there was an arrangement between the two of them. Tempers were very high by then and, when Kuria stood to speak, no doubt having quickly assessed the very obvious strength of Railaâ€™s support and Wamalwaâ€™s lack of it, he said that, as it was now late, the elections should be postponed until another day.
The delegates were angry and shouted him down, and Kuria made a hurried exit. The police immediately moved in with teargas, aimed at Railaâ€™s supporters, and Railaâ€™s security detail sitting behind him fell forward on to him and pushed him to the ground between the seats. Wamalwa sat calmly watching before gathering his team around him and leaving the venue.
More than two-thirds of the delegates were still present and they insisted that the elections must go on. And they did. Peacefully. Raila was elected chairman. Delegates then made their way back to Nairobi and descended noisily on Ford-Kenyaâ€™s Agip House offices, demanding their bus fares home. It was decided that I would deal with this, and I was accordingly furnished with a sum of money.
I sat in Railaâ€™s office with no one else except a strong contingent of Ford-Kenya security personnel, painstakingly checking off individuals against the delegates list and providing them with money for food and their fares home, completing the job in the early hours of the morning. The next day, Wamalwa woke to what was a fait accompli. He refused to accept it, however, and had his team round up a number of â€˜delegatesâ€™ from wherever they could find willing participants (I think some of them came from the market in Thika), returned to the stadium and had himself elected chairman.
Both groups filed election returns with the registrar and then Wamalwaâ€™s group went to court. The court nullified both elections and ordered the party to return to the status quo ante â€“ in other words, Wamalwa remained in his original position of chairman. Raila put to his strategy group two questions: One, Will we ever have an election within Ford-Kenya where we defeat them and they accept it? And two, Will we ever go to court and the court will make a ruling in our favour?
The answer to both questions was â€˜Noâ€™. There was no way forward, no point in continuing to flog a dead horse, and it was decided that Railaâ€™s group would leave Ford-Kenya. At a meeting held on December 12, 1996, it was agreed that, in order to avoid many unnecessary by-elections (a general election was due in 1997), only Raila would quit Ford-Kenya.
On December 31, 1996, he announced that he had resigned from the party and would contest the ensuing by-election in Langata on the ticket of his new vehicle, the National Development Party. At a press conference in Lilian Towers in Nairobi, Raila received his NDP membership card from officials of the party he would now lead, and confirmed that he had handed in his resignation to the House Speaker. The fracture with Wamalwa became a clean break.
Raila was returned to parliament in the 1997 Langata by-election, becoming the only NDP MP. As a postscript to this story, Raila soon afterwards stood as a presidential candidate in the 1997 general election. So did Wamalwa. Raila came third after Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki. Wamalwa came fourth.
The fact that Raila Odinga polled more presidential votes than Kijana Wamalwa demonstrates that Raila was more than justified in making a democratic challenge for the leadership of Ford-Kenya. I donâ€™t mean by these memories to malign Wamalwa. He was a friend and he has left us â€“ and Iâ€™m sure if he read this today, heâ€™d still shrug his shoulders and give us one of those wry smiles.
But he cannot be made in death to be more than he was in life. Wamalwa committed errors and acted inadvisably, and it was his actions that led to the breach between himself and Raila. That fact is supported by clear and documented evidence that cannot be gainsaid. No one can justifiably or with any sincerity use Wamalwa as a stick with which to beat Raila Odinga. We have lived with lies for far too long in this country. At some time or other, facts and truth, and not propaganda and myth, have to rule. Thereâ€™s no time like the present.
The writer is a freelance journalist. This article first appeared in the Star on March 3, 2012.
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It is understood CORD Leader Raila Odinga has told Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba in no uncertain terms that he has to resign from chairmanship of PAC. The CORD Leader informed the Budalangi MP that the scandals in PAC will weigh badly on him if he continues to serve as chair. The two leaders are due to meet again in the coming days.