|For President Kibaki, Monday should have been a peaceful day to relax and feel good after securing a tough coalition deal that, on balance, was in his favour. But he woke up, like the rest of us, to the news that Mungiki were on the loose.
I have my doubts whether the President, or his generation for that matter, are fully equipped to comprehend this insidious phenomenon, any more than John Michuki did when confronted with it. Mr Michuki’s instincts, understandably, were to crack down. For any government, negotiation is a matter that is out of the question when you are dealing with particular entities.
It doesn’t mean, though, that back channels should not be used to establish the source of the sudden, raw anger, even though this must be done on the clear understanding that the State will not condone activity that is criminal.
PRIME MINISTER RAILA ODINGA seemed to have a better grasp that the problem is trickier than it appears. Indeed, Mungiki spokesmen promptly called a truce in the wake of Mr Odinga’s appeal, a courtesy they had pointedly refused to extend to the security apparatus and, in extension, to the President. But such is the nature of clandestine groups that it would be a mistake to take their promises at face value. It is a stretch to imagine the long-held mutual disdain between the two sides – Mr Odinga’s and Mungiki – has suddenly evaporated.
As it is, it is difficult to know what to take seriously and what is mere bravado. But an outfit that creates alarmingly co-ordinated attacks from all corners of Nairobi and simultaneously in several other towns is not to be trifled with.
We have been there before, and this time, it is the Kibaki admnistration that should be wary. The British, who as a colonial power in Africa used to boast about their supposed prowess in administration and in management of insurrections, were caught totally napping by Mau Mau. Kibaki is for all practical purposes a product of the English school (though not of the abject variety of Charles Njonjo). The President shows this trait by his lack of connectedness with people deemed to be in the underclass. Perhaps Mr Kibaki, in his day, should have read some Marx. So should have the elites who populate Kibaki’s social world.
Today, the fire is blazing in Central Kenya. But in reality it could be anywhere – Coast, Western, name it – where young unemployed people feel dispossessed, angry and with nothing to look ahead to. The peculiar thing about Mungiki––and what should be the cause of real anxiety––is its penchant for dabbling in politics at crucial moments. It may only now be dawning on politicians that getting into bed with particular groups, then refusing to acknowledge the implicit obligations will come with a heavy political price.
But first things first. There are serious questions to be raised about the security intelligence machinery. That the post-election killings and displacements could happen on such a massive scale in the Rift Valley and go on for days with nary a response from the government is a savage indictment of the system. Then recall a recent demonstration by Mungiki-allied youths who suddenly materialised in Nairobi city centre and who just as mysteriously melted away in a matter of minutes.
By all means, Mungiki must be confronted. Still, the Kibaki administration has come out looking particularly bad in a situation where there have been no comparable and large-scale arrests of the people behind the Rift Valley killings. Worse is to see some of the people suspected to have blood on their hands grinning their way into cushy new government offices as though nothing happened.
This is hardly something that will rub off well on President Kibaki, never mind the limitations on the appointments put on him by the National Accord and Reconciliation Act.
I’ll try my hand at star-gazing. I think Barack Obama will eventually win the Democratic Party nomination in the US presidential race. It will not be an outright win, for neither he nor Hillary Clinton can win the required threshold of elected delegates. However I forsee Mrs Clinton being prevailed upon by party elders to give way somewhere along the way, probably even before the August convention.
It will not be a happy choice for the elders, most of whom are white. But they know that African-Americans will never forgive the party if Mrs Clinton is handed the nomination at the convention while having fewer elected delegates than Mr Obama. But the elders also know that it is going to be an extremely tall order for an African-American, whatever his merits, to beat the ostensible Republican nominee, John McCain.
Sorry, but that’s how unfair things get.