Kittony: Jaramogi’s death scuttled Moi power deal, but Raila salvaged it

Zipporah Kittony

Former nominated senator Zipporah Kittony at her home in Fourways Junction Estate, Kiambu Road.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

President Moi’s second five-year term was ending in December 2002.

As a person who was close to the President, I knew the day of his exit was fast approaching.

Initial signs of his impending exit were evident when Kanu and NDP entered into a cooperation agreement immediately after the general elections held on December 29, 1997.

Kanu and its presidential candidate won the elections, securing 107 of the 210 seats in the National Assembly.

President Moi needed to shore up his numbers in Parliament to execute government agenda.

Raila Odinga, the leader of the National Development Party (NDP) and President Moi agreed to work together, thus, gifting the government 21 more members to support its bills.

My brother Reuben Chesire and Phoebe Asiyo had earlier held informal discussions with President Moi that led to the political marriage between NDP and Kanu.

Ida Odinga attended one of the meetings at Kabarak, Nakuru.

This was history repeating itself. I was privy to efforts by Raila’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, to cooperate with Kanu.

Summoned all Luo MPs

After the 1992 general elections, Jaramogi summoned all Luo MPs to a meeting where he expressed his intention to work with President Moi.

He felt that his exploits in politics had served — for the first time in Kenyan history — to push all Luo MPs to the opposition, and thus he was looking for a way of ensuring the community was not left out of decision-making and sharing of the national pie.

Older Luo MPs supported his decision to reconcile and cooperate with President Moi.

A large number of the Luo populace warmed up to the idea and it was whispered that Ford-Kenya was entering into a coalition with Kanu.

But that was not realised as the 82-year-old Jaramogi Oginga Odinga died on January 20, 1994.

The friendship between Jaramogi and President Moi manifested itself when the government airlifted the body of Jaramogi to Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi. President Moi also attended the burial in Bondo.

The failure to consolidate and grow the cooperation between Ford-Kenya and Kanu was largely because of the treatment the President received at Odinga's funeral.

He did not see anybody he could do business with in the opposition outfit.

Raila’s revitalisation of NDP in 1996 and impressive performance in the 1997 general elections presented an opportunity for him to engage government.

The cover of Zipporah Kittony's book Sheer Grit.

The cover of Zipporah Kittony's book Sheer Grit.

No Luo in Cabinet

For the first time in the history of independent Kenya, there was no Luo in the first Cabinet appointments after the general elections held on December 29, 1997.

Perhaps, that is why President Moi appointed Raila Odinga and a host of other Luo MPs to the Cabinet.

The merger between Kanu and NDP was actualised on March 18, 2002 at a meeting of delegates of both parties at Kasarani in Nairobi.

Raila replaced Joseph Kamotho as secretary-general of Kanu and the party’s vice-chairman position was split into four and new leaders elected to take up the positions – Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka, Noah Katana Ngala and Cyrus Jirongo.

Prof George Saitoti, the Vice-President, was incensed after he lost his seat as party vice-chairman.

NDP was the second largest opposition party in Kenya having garnered more than 600,000 votes in the 1997 general elections, and the merger was meant to increase their chances of winning the 2002 polls.

Mass defection

However, the decision to endorse Hon Uhuru Kenyatta, the then nominated MP and Minister for Local Government, as Kanu presidential candidate triggered a mass defection.

They formed the People’s Coalition Group (renamed Liberal Democratic Party), which merged with National Alliance of Kenya, a coalition that brought together Othaya MP and Democratic Party leader Mwai Kibaki, the Kitui Central MP and Social Democratic Party leader Charity Ngilu, and Saboti MP and Ford Kenya leader Michael Kijana Wamalwa, to form a formidable alliance called the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) in mid-October 2002.

Kibaki Tosha

Raila endorsed Kibaki as the flagbearer of the Narc coalition with the now famous “Kibaki Tosha” declaration. Mwai Kibaki was elected President in the December 27, 2002 general elections, defeating Uhuru Kenyatta of Kanu and Simeon Nyachae of Ford People.

Uhuru Kenyatta conceded defeat.

President Moi instructed the assumption of office committee led by, among others, the Head of Public Service at the time, Ambassador Sally Kosgei and Internal Security Permanent Secretary (renamed Principal Secretary), Wilfred Kimalat, to arrange for the handing over ceremony at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.

I did not go to Uhuru Park; instead, I followed the proceedings from State House, Nairobi.

The President-elect was sworn in as President Moi remained calm in the face of provocations from excited opposition party supporters.

President-elect Kibaki was in a wheelchair, as a result of the injuries he had sustained from a grisly road accident at the Machakos-Nairobi junction along Mombasa Road during the campaign period. Lucy Kibaki, his spouse and Kenya’s new first lady, sat next to him.

There was a sense of disbelief when I saw some people throw mud balls at President Moi. It was frightening.

I felt sad and angry.

Time to go

When the entourage of the outgoing and incoming President arrived at State House after the swearing-in, I knew it was time to go. The place was a mess as protocol was not observed.

As the Kenya Airforce helicopter was about to lift President Moi out of State House to his Kabarak home in Nakuru, I found myself weeping. I was overcome by emotion knowing that the 24-year regime of President Moi had ended. I had always had an image of him giving instructions, solving problems and inspecting a guard of honour.

He was an ever-present authority.

Dr Sally Kosgei and other people also wept.


******

After the 1997 General Elections, President Moi nominated me again to Parliament, perhaps because of my new position as chairperson of the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake movement. I served in the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC).

As a member of the JLAC, I was appointed to the team that went to Arusha to draft the Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community.

The leadership of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania — countries that shared close historical, industrial, cultural and commercial ties — for many years mooted the idea of reviving the regional bloc, which had become moribund since its collapse in 1977.

In 1997, the three Heads of State, in a meeting held in Arusha, approved the East African Co-operation Development Strategy for the period 1997-2000, expanding the co-operation between their countries to all areas of fiscal, monetary, infrastructure, immigration and service fields.

To strengthen the cooperation between member States, the need to develop a framework for establishment of the East African Legislative Assembly was developed.

The East African Legislative Assembly, was, therefore, established under Article 9 of the EAC Treaty that entered into force on July 7, 2000 after signing on November 30, 1999.

More men than women

When the time to nominate Kenyan representatives to the EA Legislative Assembly came, more men than women had taken up positions.

Except for one position that was given to Hon Rose Wairimu Waruhiu, the Democratic Party nominee, all other positions were handed to men.

I was taken aback considering the many hours I spent in Arusha working on the document.

I sought audience with President Moi. Together with Hon Phoebe Asiyo, the first African President of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation, we drove to State House Nairobi one evening and demanded to see the President.

The State House Comptroller, John Lokorio, was reluctant to allow us in, but we insisted. We were either going to see the President or we would not leave the precincts of State House. Lokorio reluctantly gave in. We explained to the President what had happened and why women representation was important at the regional Assembly. President Moi was incensed and demanded the name of our preferred nominee right away for appointment. We asked to consult.

We drove towards Nairobi Serena Hotel.

Nicholas Biwott

Just as we were entering the parking area at Serena, the name of the then powerful Energy Minister, Nicholas Biwott, came to mind.

He was close to the President and we reached him on phone to narrate our mission, fearing some forces would interfere.

We asked him if he knew a woman suitable for appointment to the position. He mentioned Prof Margaret Kamar, a don at Moi University, Eldoret.

Mama Phoebe Asiyo and I rushed to Maendeleo Ya Wanawake offices in Nairobi’s CBD, prepared a note on Maendeleo letterhead nominating Prof Kamar and drove back to State House to deliver the letter to the President.

That is how Prof Kamar ended up becoming a member of the first EA Legislative Assembly from February 4, 2001 to February 10, 2006.

I, thereafter, organised women leaders to escort Prof Kamar and Ms Waruhiu to Namanga, the border crossing point on the Kenya-Tanzania boundary on their way to Arusha to take the oath of office.

Grateful

I remain grateful for the work and courage I mastered to plead my case before the President.

The First Assembly had 10 representatives from Kenya.

They were Calist Mwatela, Waruhiu, Kamar, Gilbert Ochieng Mbeo, Mohamed Abdalla Zubedi, Abdirahim Abdi, Maxwell Shamala, Lieutenant General Aden Abdullahi and Jared Benson Kangwana.

The incremental growth EAC has experienced over the years is encouraging. Rwanda (June 18, 2007), Burundi (joined July 1, 2007), South Sudan (April 6, 2016) have since joined the union. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) later on expressed willingness to join the EAC and was admitted in April, 2022.

Going by the recent trends, it is possible that Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea and Ethiopia may in the near future consider joining the union


*****

On December 10, 1991, Parliament amended the Constitution, paving the way for multi-party general elections on December 29, 1992. For most Kanu loyalists, the new development was a chimera they did not know how to handle. To most, the end had come and the feeling of an impending defeat was overwhelming.

The opposition quickly coalesced around Ford (Forum for the Restoration of Democracy), holding regular campaign rallies and street protests. Everywhere one went, the mood and subject of conversation was dominated by the new political developments in the country.

A split in opposition movement that resulted in the formation of Ford-Kenya led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Ford-Asili led by Kenneth Matiba, and the formation of Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party made it possible for Kanu to win the 1992 elections.

Not easy for Kanu

However, it was not easy for Kanu in that election. My son, Kiprono, together with his friends Gideon, Jonathan and June, who are President Moi’s children, Cyrus Jirongo, Fred Kiptanui, Sammy Kogo, Bartonjo Chesaina, the son of former Nakuru district Kanu chairman, Joe Kimkung, Samson Nyamweya, and Joe Mwangale came up with an outfit called the Kanu National Youth Congress to secure the vote of young men and women. It was later renamed Youth for KANU ’92. Jirongo, who was then a 32-year-old businessman, chaired the outfit.

A lot has been said about YK ’92 but I leave it to historians to dissect its merits and demerits. But what stands out is the wave it created that made every young man and woman desire to belong to and participate in the 1992 elections.

Unfortunately, clashes erupted in Rift Valley between 1991 and 1992.

An estimated 5,000 people were killed and another 250,000 displaced, according to official government records. Molo town was the epicentre of the violence, which pitted people from the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin communities.

Ishmael Chelang’a, who was the Provincial Commissioner, attributed the violence to political manipulation that aroused ethnic passions and the land ownership question.

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