jeremiah kioni, jubilee NDC

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni at the Ngong Race Course in Nairobi on May 22, 2023, for the party's National Delegates Convention.

| Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Why Jeremiah Kioni must exit Bomas talks

This past week, I had a hot and saucy exchange on X (formerly Twitter) with one-time Azimio La Umoja presidential running mate Martha Karua. The so-called Iron Lady was hot and bothered about my insistence that one Jeremiah Kioni – of the Jubilee Party fracas fame – should immediately resign as head of the Azimio Technical Team at the Bomas talks.

To me, the matter was straightforward for any right-thinking person given Mr Kioni’s avowed opposition to the talks. But not to Ms Karua. She proceeded to launch curious broadsides at yours truly. Like a mother hen, Ms Karua fought viciously as though I was a vulture come to snatch her pullets, or cockerels. Which begs this pithy pregnant question – who’s fooling who?

Allow me to peel your eyes so you can see clearly. It’s now ancient history that the first dialogue team between Azimio and Kenya Kwanza crashed in a hail of futile accusations and juvenile salvos. Such talks need adults in the room and, in my view, both teams did not rise to the occasion. It was clear to me at the time – as the protests reached a crescendo with dire consequences for both sides and the country – that we needed a political settlement.

Otherwise, I was convinced that Kenya faced an existential moment. I had no doubt then – nor do I do today – that key critical issues separating the sides opposite was dialogue. There has not been a better idea.

Paid a personal price

I am not a fan of latter-day heroes or wannabe Che Guevaras who have never paid a personal price to make Kenya better standing on their high horse to preach “revolution.” Not folks who every time they come close to power all they have done is loot the country. Nor am I interested in holier-than-thou warriors for whom the most lethal weapon they have ever wielded is a steak knife in a five-star restaurant. No sir. Show me a real CV in the struggle so we can decide if you have earned the right to even stand next to some Azimio luminaries. You do not gatecrash a party and start preaching to bona-fide fighters. Sit down and learn something – like the struggle’s history – first.

Or read a book about where Kenya has been and where it’s going. Show some humility. It’s a sad fact of Kenya’s history that those who have fought and suffered enormous losses for Kenya rarely get requited. While those who sat on the sidelines, or joined the oppressor, generally sit at the feeding trough. That was the fate of the brilliant Mau Mau.

That’s why I cry in pain when I see our politicians trooping once again to shed crocodile tears at the funeral of yet another Mau Mau fighter. And yet the truth of the matter is that the Mau Mau are only useful in death to our politicians. Many still live in squalor and no one cares.

I digress. I believe that only those who are serious and understand the stakes should be anywhere near Bomas. We don’t need a saboteur or a hypocrite like Mr Kioni there. From the very beginning of the first bipartisan committee, Mr Kioni has been a loud and unhinged opponent of any talks. Why? I don’t know except he keeps repeating – without bearing out his argument – that the talks will fail. He has no faith in dialogue at all. If that’s the case, then he needs to take his reasoning to the logical conclusion – pick up a musket and go play Che Guevara at the Aberdares. I guarantee him that he will soon discover that he’s no Dedan Kimathi, our greatest warrior.

A good taste of the real Aberdares will have Mr Kioni scampering very quickly to the tranquility of  Serena Hotel. Mr Kioni has told all and sundry – including the media – that he does not believe in the talks because they will not amount to more than a hill of beans.

He says all this while feigning respect for Azimio’s numeros uno Raila Odinga. Who appointed Mr Kioni spokesperson for the talks? That role, as far as I know, belongs to the co-leaders – Azimio’s Kalonzo Musyoka and Kenya Kwanza’s Kimani Ichung’wah.

Mr Kioni, even in his exaggerated role as “head” of Azimio’s technical team, must keep his mouth shut. He’s a backroom operator whose job is to advise, although I have scratched my head and can’t come up with anything that Mr Kioni can advise Mr Musyoka on. Nada. Zilch.

I end where I started. Ms Karua, Mr Kioni, and several other Mt Kenya figures have formed a concoction they are calling Kamwene, which literally means “for me, and my own.”

I refer to it pejoratively as a “tribal” outfit. True nationalists and patriots wouldn’t touch such a corrosive idea with a ten-foot pole. My own belief is that Mr Kioni and Kamwene have sinister motives.

Mr Kioni in all likelihood wants to wreck the talks from within. If so, why is Ms Karua giving him succour? Azimio needs to fire him pronto.

Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W. Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. @makaumutua.