Elusive Presidency Will Never Ruin Raila Odinga’s Revolutionary Legacy

By Alexander Opicho  (Nairobi, Kenya)

Kenya’s supreme court may uphold or challenge the 2022 Presidential results. Having the Supreme Court to set aside the declared Presidential results depends on how best Raila Odinga and his team argues the case at the Supreme Court. Similarly, this can only be so if all other factors are held constant.However, Raila Odinga should not be looked at in terms of being a veteran politician who complained about riggedPresidential elections for five or so times.

Yes, on several occasions Raila Odinga has suffered emotionaland economic pangs of being thinned out of elections he has genuinely won, but this is not the end of Raila Odinga’s history. It is the beginning of gradual maturing of electoral democracy in Kenya for bench-marking by other pudding nations in East Africa, and even Africa. Thus, the future history of Africa’s democracy belongs to the people of Africa but through revolutionary handmaids in the likes of Raila Odinga and other selfless liberation leaders that died in the struggle without necessarily enjoying capture of state power. Hence, just like other precedent revolutionaries, Raila Odinga is an organic revolutionary whose legacy cannot get tainted by his recurrent misfortunate experience of victimhood in electoral forgeries observed in Kenya on umpteen occasions.

First, let me appreciate Raila Odinga’s very brilliant ideas on ecological democracy beautifully guiding how Africa can achieve decarbonized industrialization published in Project Syndicate in the month of August 2022 under the title ‘Decarbonization of Industrial Development in Africa’. They are the kind of ideas that can salvage the earth from vagaries of climate. Intellectual candour displayed by Raila Odinga in the article calls on other leaders to soul-search their respective roles of the ‘Political as Knowledge.’ Hopefully the forthcoming COP27 United Nations Climate Change Conference will listen to the ideas in Raila Odinga’s Project Syndicate article and adopt them for ecological safety, peace and progress.

Thus, modern human civilization must come to new realization that successful political socialization of an individual must not be measured in terms of occupying office of the President. Instead diverse dimensions of self-less service to humanity in terms of leadership in crusading for defending human rights, protecting the environment, upholding gender democracy, protecting human diversity, fighting poverty and promoting global peace among others must be prioritized as variables to evaluate political performance of a political leader. For those of us that have had extensive interaction with Kenya’s politics, we are able to easily point out that Raila Odinga is among the self-less leaders that have spent their lives immolating the self for the people of Kenya to enjoy the above dimensions of political virtues.

Raila Odinga has been fighting for good governance in Kenya for the past four decades. Personally, I first learned of Raila Odinga in a certain 1989 December Edition of Daily Nation in Kenya. This was the peak time of Gestapo-like police dictatorship in Kenya, hence by that time Raila Odinga was adaily lead story in the media as a political refugee in Norway.This was also the time Koigi wa Mwere , Wafula Buke , Johnstone Kilobi, Saulo Busolo, Mukhisa Kituyi, Kabando wa Kabando, Mwandawiro Magangah , Philomena Chelagat Mutai, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Micere Githae Mugo, Steven Adongosi, and very many other Kenyans had fled to exile for safety or had been detained without trial for several number of years only to die in detention or if lucky to run for safety in exile after the detention .

Those who remained to fight dictatorship of the day from withinKenya had to be stopped by mysterious deaths or other debacles of significant size. Among them was the catholic priest and human rights missionary, Father Anthony Kaiser, Kenneth Matiba, Masinde Muliro, Andrew Ngumba and Dr. John Robert Ouko. This does not mean that the exile was an assurance of safety, there were several assassinations attempts as well as plotsto perfect cold-blooded killing of those in the exile. For example, Johnstone Kilobi a student of Political Science at the University of Nairobi fled to Tanzania in 1982, he was one of the students who ran away from the police operations on Students who had participated in sham coup. When the long hand of Kenya government began arresting suspected students exiled in Tanzania, he ran to Zimbabwe for safety and then to Canada. But since 1989 the whereabouts of Johnstone Kilobi arenot known.

People of Kenya are now happy that dark times of police-tyranny has been fought by the people, and the people defeated the Gestapo like police state. However, it is also sad that the ones enjoying the fruits of the struggle- I mean freedom and new brand of democracy, are not those who suffered in the struggle. The ones enjoying now were part of the police machinery that perpetrated brutal tyranny on the people of Kenya. Indeed, the current political experience in Kenya is some kind of modern praxis of revolutionary philosophy that ‘it is nature of liberationstruggle that those who lead a liberation movement rarely enjoy fruits of the liberation’. Some leaders of the liberation and some freedom fighters even become unfortunate targets of persecution by post-liberation governments they worked hard to establish.

In tandem with the above political experience in Kenya, South America and Africa has several cases of freedom fighters that never had chance to enjoy fruits of their labour. Listing them can cover pages and pages. But just to mention some; Ernesto Che Gue Vara never enjoyed any big political office; Amilcar Cabral the tireless mobilizer and revolutionary never had chance to enjoy the freedom he fought for in Cape Verde; John Garang de Mabior never stayed to see the freedom he fought for in Southern Sudan; In spite of their deep sacrifices, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo and many other architects of freedom from apartheid in South Africa never lived to enjoy big political offices. It is the same situation applicable to Andimba Toyivo Ya Toyivo, the fiery freedom fighter from Namibia. His fieriness in liberation struggle earned him a transfer to Robben Island to join Nelson Mandela. However, Toyivo Ya Toyivo was not broken in spirit with the transfer, the first thing he did on arrival at Robben Island was to kick and fist the prison warder on duty. He did all these on an empty stomach.

Dutiful examination of liberation history across the world clearly shows that the precedent of Revolutionary self-lessness was set in Europe in the experience of Napoleon Bonaparte.Napoleon was the father of European revolutionary consciousness. He is the first European to practice universal revolution which began as the French revolution. He changed the quality of political thought and governance in Europe.However, he died a shameful death in very humiliating and deplorable prison conditions as a choiceless prisoner on the Island of St Helena. A century later, Karl Marx, the most schooled socialist revolutionary died of starvation while living as a refuge in London. Karl Marx never enjoyed any political office nor stayed to see glorification of his ideas ruling three quarters of the world as well as forming powerful political economies like China and Russia. Little do I need to mention that revolutionary firebrands like Antonio Gramsci of Italy as well as Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg of Germany were persecuted by prisons and assassinations in order to be forestalled from enjoyment of any political office. Glaring above all is the case of Leon Trotsky, the chief revolutionary thinker and strategist of the October revolution that set free Russia from brutality of tsardom.

It was so sorry that after successful execution of the revolution, Leon Trotsky was never lucky to enjoy any significant political office in the Soviet Union. Instead, he was discriminated and persecuted by Stalin. Leon Trotsky was systematically excluded from fruits of Russian revolution for being a Jew. Stalin ensured intensive police brutality on Leon Trotsky, a vice which made Trotsky to go to exile in America. Leon Trotsky died mysteriously in America, his land of exile. He died in poverty without any opportunity to taste the flavour in any political office in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union which he worked day and night to an extent of sacrificing his family life in order to create.

The above experience of liberation leaders being alienated from fruits of the liberation struggle are very stark negative lessons. However, there is healing power in the words of Kwame Nkurumah that, ’there are positive lessons in all eventualities of negative lessons.’ By logical extension then, there are positive lessons from the experience of Karl Marx, Napoleon, Trotsky, Liebknecht, Luxembourg, George Orwell and Antonio Gramsci. They were never lucky to enjoy material glory that come with big political offices in the governments they fought to establish,but history has made them into unflagging monuments of today and generations to come. Their names are cornerstone of world history. They have firmly owned the future history of Europe, just the same way history has served genuine honour to the leaders of liberation in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These realities of history must crystalize into a lesson enough for thoseridiculing Raila Odinga. He is not vilifiable as currently observed in the gloating faces of those that are illiterate about Kenya’s political history. Raila Odinga is destined to own future history of Africa. His name will persist to impeach all those immoral intentions in the currently entrenched tradition of electoral forgeries in Kenya that has been making Raila Odinga’s election to the office of the Presidency, series of stage-managed elusiveness against Raila’s electoral politics will never distort his legacy as an iconic revolutionary.

Alexander Opicho writes from Nairobi, Kenya