I did not plan or intend to rebut the many mischievous, concocted, frivolous and vexatious opinions purportedly being published in the Kenyan press under the guise of ‘reviews’ about my book, Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya. It’s not because I couldn’t or didn’t want to ‘defend’ myself. It’s because, firstly, most of the gratuitous attacks and inept psychoanalytic work by these peddlers of ad hominem are so pedestrian that I felt there would be no reasonable basis for debunking them; and secondly, I wanted the book to speak for itself.
However, the more I have continued to read of these misplaced, unfair and clearly incompetent ‘critiques,’ the more some of my friends and comrades have impressed on me to respond. I don’t want this to degenerate into ‘I am a better writer than X, Y, Z,’ as the chief pseudo-intellectual and robotic regurgitator Makau Mutua has ineptly tried to do. (He should feel free to write his own memoirs). Nor do I want to engage in slug-fests with paid Raila groupies and propagandists like Sarah Elderkin. (I haven’t said one negative thing about her in the book, though I could have.) I have absolutely no interest in debating with former Chief Kanu puppeteers like Philip Ochieng’ (he doesn’t deserve my time) or other Kanu Orphans. I want to leave them alone to wrestle with their ghosts, their past, and their debauched consciences.
It was my good friend, longstanding comrade, former political prisoner and fellow exile in Canada, Onyango Oloo, who eventually persuaded me to pen this ‘clarification’. Before I delve into some of the issues raised in the most vicious and vacuous attacks on me, let’s revisit what Oloo states a book review should be.
“In my opinion, when you are critiquing a book, you analyze and comment on its CONTENTS, giving your assessment of the veracity of its claims, the context when it was written and perhaps even the finesse (or lack of it) in putting together the book in literary terms. In a political memoir one cannot shy away from ideological judgments made in the concrete historical, socio-economic, cultural and broader political context in which the book was written.
At the end of day the critic must ask:
What did the author set out to do?
What were the central arguments and claims of the author?
Did the author succeed in making those claims in a factual, credible, consistent and verifiable way?
If the book was read two years, twelve years, twenty years or two hundred years from now, will it stand the test of time?
Has the book added to or subtracted from national discourse, dialogue or debate?
Is the country worse off or better placed as a result of the issues raised in the book?”
On May 19, 2011, Sarah Elderkin published an article in The Star in my defence titled “Keep it real and keep it balanced,” in which she said, among other things:
“But first I need to say that I know Miguna and I have worked with him. I have found him intelligent, well-read, well-prepared, honest, stalwart, upright, hardworking and supremely committed to what is good, proper, right and just. I also know he is impatient and highly vocal about anything that contravenes these values, and that he does not suffer fools gladly. About his style of operation (never the substance), he and I have in the past had rather lively discussions. But I have learned to respect Miguna.
He is one of the few people I know who actually reads complex legal and constitutional documents, when others are just too idle or too incompetent to put in the hard work required. Miguna patiently winkles out the loopholes otherwise overlooked, and bravely stands his ground against the inevitable attacks.
It is a lonely position, and Miguna might not always be diplomatic. But diplomacy isn’t everything. If things go well for us in this country, Kenyans will owe Miguna more than they know.
Little wonder, then, that Miguna strikes back to defend himself when people deliberately try to downgrade his work with cheap shots vilifying him as a person”.
She called me “intelligent, well-read, well-prepared, honest, stalwart, upright, hardworking and supremely committed to what is good, proper, right and just.” That was just about one year ago. Now Sarah would want Kenyans to believe that I am dishonest and an appalling liar. Am I a liar because I have disagreed with Raila? Am I dishonest merely on account of having published a book Raila and Sarah don’t like? You be the judge.
Then on August 6, 2011 – just two days after Raila had suspended me unjustly – Sarah wrote to Raila and stated, among other things, the following:
“I personally think that what has happened is appalling. When I heard of it, my first thought was Moi, and the trepidation with which people awaited the one o’clock news and roadside declarations about their sacking. It is terrible that an action of your office should reduce me, of all people, to that kind of comparison.
Apart from being completely ill-advised that you rid yourself of one of the best brains you have around you (and you have got some nincompoops, that’s for sure) this has been done in the most disgusting fashion. Public executions went out in the UK a couple of hundred years ago. They were mourned by some as a loss of spectator sport.
That a man who has been so loyal to you and to the party and put so much of himself into defending it against destructive incursions from outside should be publicly lynched in this manner is something I cannot and will never be able to condone. It is primitive and uncivilized and inhumane. How is this person ever to retrieve his reputation and continue with his life? Was this necessary? It’s a disgrace.
And that is not to go into the details. Suspended without pay? Apart from the fact that this is completely illegal, Miguna has five young children at home to take care of. Inhumane or what? What message does this give about you and your office?
You have people around you playing major roles who are irredeemably corrupt. Two of them were suspended earlier and then incomprehensibly reinstated. They were suspended on full pay and benefits. Now you have a man who is totally loyal and not involved in your office staff’s blatant, well-known all over town, corruption, yet he is ‘suspended’ without pay – and this is activated by one of those whose integrity I wouldn’t trust beyond a yard away from me, someone the whole town talks about.”
Not only did Sarah term my suspension “appalling, ill-advised, illegal, primitive, uncivilized and inhumane”; she also accused Raila of discarding “a man who is totally loyal and not involved in your office staff’s blatant, well-known all over town, corruption…” So, Sarah knew of the “blatant, well-known all over town corruption” of the Raila’s staff; correct? The same “blatant, well-known over town corruption” that I have exposed in my book and which, she, among other sycophantic paid propagandists, are now desperately trying to conceal and wish away? The question is why? Why is Sarah virulently attacking me for exposing what she herself stridently complained about in that letter to Raila less than one year ago? Has she undergone an amnesiac attack?
And why is the Kenyan media condoning, encouraging and perpetuating this double standard and the attendant perpetuation of the culture of impunity? When and why did Sarah change her mind over the blatant corruption at the OPM? Why is she rooting for those she termed “blatantly corrupt?” Does Sarah really care about cleaning up Kenya of corruption, tribalism and nepotism? Where is the evidence of her commitment?
Sarah has falsely accused me of breaching an undertaking of confidentiality over the letter she wrote to Raila about the universally acknowledged blatant corruption of Raila’s office staff. Ironically, she hasn’t produced a copy of that undertaking because it doesn’t exist. I never, ever gave Sarah that undertaking. I wouldn’t have. Why would I have given an undertaking to keep the letter hidden away from the public? Isn’t it in the public interest for Sarah and me to come clean on the “blatant, well-known all over town corruption” at the OPM?
Between full and complete disclosure of corruption and non-disclosure, why does Sarah prefer the latter? Is it because Sarah is more loyal to Raila Odinga the person and more committed to his presidential quest than she is to the truth, honesty and the fight against corruption in Kenya?
For months following my unlawful suspension, Sarah kept writing and speaking to me (we also visited each other at our respective homes), and urging me to apply for the various constitutional offices that were being filled. In one touching email on August 30, 2011 (nearly one month after my suspension), she asserted that: “Miguna, I am really sad…and feel so frustrated by today’s situation in Kenya. Did you read Yash’s [Pal Ghai’s] article in the Star of last Thursday? He has really hit the nail on the head, and it is so depressing. Corruption is everywhere and it seems there are only very few people who are not there simply for what they can get. Few and far between. I enjoyed reading Wamwere’s article on Sunday and yesterday, too (Std). He writes well.
I take it from your article today that you are glad, if anything, that PLO has gone. He was pretty hopeless, I must admit, but now it appears we are going to have a toothless body at the mercy of parliamentarians. Where shall we go from here? Very worrying.
I hope you will share your plans with me (confidentially, of course) when you know what you are going to be doing. Maina Kiai and I have been sharing some thoughts on things in general, and how depressing everything is, and in passing we mentioned you and both really hoped that you would see your way clear to getting up, doing well and being a positive factor in Kenya’s future. Kenya still needs you. I am still so upset about what has happened.” [Emphasis added].
Were these legitimate and genuine expressions on empathy and grief or were they subterfuge? Which Sarah should we believe; the one now parroting falsehoods against me or the earlier one?
Then, of course, are a litany of arcane, concocted and mangled anecdotes Sarah and others have recently weaved together as part of a fight-back strategy to save Raila’s fast-dwindling fortunes. The intention has been to depict me in the worst possible light; even falsely claim that I am suffering from some kind of psychological or mental illness. (It is so sad that despite the Bill of Rights in the Constitution barring discrimination and protecting people suffering from physical, psychological and mental illness, Raila and his groupies believe that it is all right to attack those perceived to suffer from these illnesses under the guise of attempting a take-down on me).
As Sarah told Raila in that August 6th, 2011 letter, reading her lengthy gibberish and those of Ochieng’, Wambugu and Mutua remind me of Moi. It was Moi who termed each and every critic a ‘drug addicts and mad men.’ During Moi’s repressive regime, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Raila, Koigi Wamwere, George Anyona, James Orengo, Abuya Abuya, Chelagat Mutai, Mwashengu wa Mwachofi, Lawrence Sifuna et cetera, were all delusional and suffering from acute mental and psychological ailments. And what was their prescribed treatment? Detention without trial; brutal torture; exile; and stigmatization. The same prescriptions Sarah, Ochieng’, Mutua et al are currently peddling in response to the publication of my book.
As I argue in the book, ad hominem is the tested weapon of the lazy, the cowardly, the malicious and the intellectually impotent. Competent people capable of debate don’t hurl abuse at their true or perceived opponents; they reason, debate and argue. Unfortunately, what I have been reading doesn’t constitute reason. They don’t add to any body of knowledge.
Readers and history have a way of distilling quality out of literary works. Writers write books. Critics, if they are competent and ethical, critique those books. Smear campaigns, however, have never passed the squat test for literary criticism. I have no intention of critiquing my own books and this shouldn’t be misconstrued as an attempt to do that.
So, what did I set out to do in Peeling Back the Mask?
As clearly articulated in the book, the published memoirs form part of my ongoing life story. I not only recount my birth, upbringing, formal education and professional life; I also narrate the struggles I have been involved in. I share with readers the experiences that have shaped my life, my philosophy, my ideological commitments and the quests for justice throughout my life. I also write about why I resolved to return to Kenya in 2007. And in the process of telling my story, I analyse the historical and political events that moulded my thoughts and shaped my belief system.
As I state in the ‘Declaration’ part of the book, which is essentially a ‘preface,’ ‘[T]hese are my memoirs. Dates and incidents are not weaved together chronologically for the sole purpose of narrating a story. My life story is not told here to entertain anyone. The book tackles (or so I hope) some of the key issues in my ongoing life, commencing with my childhood experiences to the most contemporary highlights of my involvement in Kenyan politics.”
The book is not only about my encounter, relationship and experiences working for and with Raila Odinga, and I have never claimed that it was. The book goes back decades before I knew who Raila was. Nearly two-thirds of it delves deeply into issues of struggle; struggle against totalitarianism, one party dictatorship, social-economic exclusion, racism and the culture of impunity. And it looks further into the future, long after Raila would have vacated the public space. My critics would do justice to their professed intentions if they too attempt to address the six questions Oloo has outlined above (or any other credible basis of analysis) and cogently inform readers why the book fails to meet their flaunted standards.
I wrote this book (I am proud to say, within five months), principally for myself, for Kenyans, Africans and for humanity in general. In it, I seek justice for myself, for Kenyans and for Africans. It wasn’t written for or on behest of any politician or political formation. I am not working for any politician and none has paid me a dime to write this book.
On the one hand, cheap propagandists peddle false, concocted stories about my alleged working for certain undisclosed politicians, before dramatically turning around and asserting that I have “attacked everybody.” So, which is which? They can’t have it both ways.
None of the so-called critics has clearly stated which chapter, paragraph or line they disagree with and why. Writing a book – any book – is a tedious and onerous undertaking. It takes time and careful thought, reflection and introspection. The more original a book is the more one does not encounter reference to dead or living writers. Memoirs are about one’s life; not how many books one has read and cited. This isn’t an academic book. However, it is, like with virtually all written work, an intellectual undertaking. Whereas lazy writers (especially half-baked lawyers who have never entered a courtroom to argue a case like Makau Mutua) fill their texts with reference upon reference of other people’s works, original writers do not. Through writing, we share ideas, experiences and thoughts. My book is not different.
The central argument in the book is that faced with adversity – both natural and artificial – we, individually and collectively, are capable of overcoming them if we are disciplined, persistent, hard-working, honest and courageous. I have given numerous examples when, as an 11-year-old boy, I used these qualities (which we are all born with and can harness) to overcome harsh and near fatal conditions in Lambwe Valley; how I utilised them to escape into exile after I had been abducted, detained incommunicado and tortured for 14 days at the Nyayo Torture Chambers; how I managed to succeed against all odds in exile; et cetera.
Within ten days following the book launch, hundreds of readers – especially young ones – have so far confirmed that these incidents have inspired them rather than made them feel envious, jealous or dejected. If my book can inspire just one life and help that person overcome adversities, I would be a happy man. Fortunately, so far, a lot of readers have confirmed that the book has made a significant difference in their lives. That’s invaluable.
However, there are some people who have attempted to twist portions of my book and desperately tried to assassinate my character. Some of these people are trying very hard to selectively quote sections of my book, concoct stories and leak and misrepresent some internal memos and briefs to paint me as a liar and even a mad man. For instance, has anybody just thought of how I could have attended presidential functions BEFORE I was appointed the Prime Minister’s adviser, rearranged the president’s and the PM’s chairs, and even took minutes of the meetings? Please tell that to the wind!
Anyone who has read my book knows that I was appointed Raila’s adviser by President Mwai Kibaki on March 6, 2009. I wasn’t just Raila’s senior most adviser on coalition, legal and constitutional affairs; I was also both the joint secretary of the Permanent Committee on the Management of Grand Coalition Affairs and the coordinator of Raila’s various Think Tanks. That was well before the Kilaguni retreat. It’s also common knowledge that no stranger can attend and participate in a presidential function in Kenya, no matter how creative, intelligent or ‘powerful.’
Acres of space and ink have been wasted in the past three weeks over my concocted ‘files’, memos and briefs to Raila Odinga. Clearly, the Prime Minister must be so desperate as to selectively release contrived documents as a way of responding to my book. Anyone who knows anything about the inept bureaucratic procurement process in government would confirm to the malicious jokers that getting a pencil or mobile phone bought takes weeks or even months. I wasn’t the accounting officer at the Office of the Prime Minister. How then could I have procured and had a sign erected on my office door declaring me ‘permanent secretary’ if it hadn’t been processed and approved by the same people now trying to cast aspersions at me? How about the letter by the Prime Minister himself – produced in court – stating clearly that I had been appointed at the Permanent Secretary level? Will the PM denounce his letter in court or publicly now that I have written a book?
If one day you wake up and find deductions from your salary to the tune of Sh30,000 per month, can anyone (other than the merchants of impunity whose sources of fabulous wealth are shrouded in mystery) simply dismiss it as a minor inconvenience? Bear in mind that the Higher Education Loans Board hadn’t written to me directly to demand payment, nor had anyone at the OPM disclosed any such demands or letters, and even after I raised issue with the irregular deductions, Mohamed Isahakia refused to disclose the letter now being peddled. The deductions were both arbitrary and whimsical. Regardless, don’t people think that I have a right to be advised of any claims – legitimate or illegitimate – before anyone starts rummaging through my salary?
Why have they concocted and partially produced those documents and not numerous memos I wrote to Raila Odinga over corruption allegations against Isahakia and Caroli Omondi? And why did the media publish those manufactured fiction without seeking my response or confirmation whether the documents were authentic or cooked?
Then I have read stories that I only started criticizing Raila “after I was fired.” When was I fired? The last time I checked, Raila announced my reinstatement on December 27, 2011. I turned down that offer on December 31, 2011. So, who is fooling who?
Then some malicious miscreants have attempted to dredge out my acquittal over false criminal allegations and applied fake paint on them, desperately trying to use my complete vindication by a competent court in Canada to suggest that somehow, I cannot be believed or trusted because I was once charged but not convicted. Firstly, I wasn’t and have never been charged with “rape” as alleged. There were false allegations of “sexual touching.” In Canada, alleged sexual touching, even ogling, is called “sexual assault.” This is as far from “rape” as the sun is to the earth. Regardless, after a full trial, which I demanded, I was acquitted of all the charges. There were no technical motions or findings. The trial judge found, as fact that the two complaints had conspired and made up stories to implicate me. The police investigation was also criticised as wanting. These were the findings of a court in Canada; a court that you cannot compromise, bribe or intimidate. Any knowledgeable person of the North American judicial system will attest to the fact that African/Black males have often found themselves railroaded by racist police, prosecutors and/or judges. More than most places around the world, malicious prosecutions and wrongful convictions, have been routine against Black men. Consequently, for a Black man accused of “sexual assault” to get acquitted in Canada is a major vindication and a confirmation of innocence.
Ironically, the same people trying to besmirch my character on the basis of an acquittal, have strongly defended Raila Odinga whose prosecution for treason arising out of the 1982 attempted coup, was based on a technicality. Why haven’t they accused Raila of mass murder and mayhem that followed the 1982 attempted coup? Double standards would not do. How about Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Jomo Kenyatta and many other freedom fighters that were convicted and served long sentences for all manner of alleged crimes?
It has been interesting reading about purported refutations of my book based either on total ignorance of the contents of the book or bald-faced lies and propaganda.
Undeniably Sarah Elderkin is an employee of Raila Odinga. She is paid handsomely to write speeches, propaganda skits and the never-ending memoirs. But it is also a fact that at all the material times; she was never formally employed by the government, had no authority to access government files or information and never attended any government function or meeting. I don’t recall seeing Sarah in Toronto in October 2006 when Raila visited me there. She did not accompany Raila to Denver or to Minnesota but I did. She wasn’t in Kilaguni, Geneva, Chicago, Kampala or Buffalo when I visited those places as part of government delegation or with Raila. Sarah wasn’t present at the Mount Kenya Safari Club meeting with Raila, James Orengo, Anyang’ Nyong’o and I when we discussed the Maize Scandal. Sarah wasn’t a member of the Raila Think Tank or the ODM Strategic Team and wasn’t privy to any of the discussions by these groups.
So, how can she speak authoritatively about meetings she never attended? Why would anyone choose to believe her – or indeed any of the propagandists that have emerged from the woodworks? I have detailed minutes and documents with signatures to prove my case. What I have is ironclad. It’s irrefutable. It’s incontrovertible. That’s why I am not bothered with empty threats and frivolous propaganda.
Then there are baseless allegations that I pleaded with Raila through Patrick Quarcoo for reinstatement. Now that Raila has repeated this scandalous claim in his exclusive interview with the Sunday Nation, wouldn’t it have been neater for Mr Quarcoo to confirm or deny it? It’s plainly manufactured. Quarcoo can speak for himself. Raila didn’t just send Patrick to me; he also sent Salim Lone and Prof Edward Oyugi to me; to beg me to return to his office. (That’s what Salim and Oyugi told me.)
Raila’s ridiculous claim that I am being funded by the National Security Intelligence Service and his political opponents say more about his state of mind and ineffectiveness than about me. After all, isn’t he, as prime minister, the coordinator and supervisor of the execution of all government functions, including that of the NSIS? Instead of speaking rubbish, why can’t he produce the evidence upon which he is making such bald-faced allegations? I not only visited Canada last year even after my unlawful suspension; I have visited Canada each year since I relocated to Kenya in 2007. Why does Raila sound desperate? Has he been withholding my dues and personal effects in order to reduce me to a pauper?
Raila and his desperate groupies have clearly not read the book. I urge everyone to relax and read the book before some of them perish of unnecessary heart attacks.
Miguna is an author, Barrister & Solicitor in Canada and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya