No room for political quislings to entrench impunity


Peter Kagwanja likes to introduce himself as \’chief strategist\’ for PNU/KKK, President Mwai Kibaki and the ministry of foreign affairs. When it pleases him, he also says he is a \’consultant\’. It is unclear what he consults on.

He attaches the title \’Professor\’ to his name, though many have paused to wonder when, by which university, and for what he was acclaimed with this honorific. In a recent attack on me (Star, Friday, April 22), he described himself as \’Founding President of the Africa Policy Institute and a policy adviser\’.

It must be difficult, even for the acrobatic Kagwanja, to remember all the titles he has arrogated himself. In his byline last week, he deliberately omitted the \’chief strategist\’ tag. Was this because of the spectacular failures he has encountered recently, and was the article – a vicious assault on me and misrepresentation of my character – an attempt to justify his fat paycheck?

Kagwanja and I met recently in a Citizen TV programme, and the timing suggests that this might be the primary reason for his attack on me. During the programme, Kagwanja was completely unable to defend his half-baked theories and strategies. He totally failed to explain and justify why PNU/KKK is always hurtling from one embarrassing controversy to the next. He clutched at one theoretical straw after another, before collapsing into a heap of gibberish.

He tried to recite his purported academic publications and ridiculously claimed that some of them are being relied on as authorities by the ICC. Quite paradoxically, Kagwanja also claimed that the ICC is biased and the ongoing proceedings have been manipulated by enemies of his KKK chauvinistic clients in order to "remove them from the 2012 presidential race". As usual, Kagwanja can\’t make up his mind whether to embrace or reject the ICC. Having failed, he has now resorted to post-facto convoluted articles. If he is smart, which is now in great doubt, he should know that you don\’t win a debate through post-contest dirges.

As a person accustomed only to shadow-boxing, Kagwanja spectacularly failed to perform spontaneously, as most intellectuals would. He just could not answer the questions, and he ended up mincemeat.

In what is obviously a pathetic attempt to excuse himself for this dismal performance, Kagwanja claims in his article, without a shred of evidence, that "many pundits in ODM and PNU alike agree that an encounter" with me "can turn out to be a nasty, brutal and fatal affair."

Read Kagwanja\’s article.

He sounds like a general who goes to war but runs away crying for a ceasefire the moment he is confronted by superior firepower. If a political opponent comes armed and ready to shoot, he must expect a vigorous and robust response. Kagwanja is a sore loser.

He has disparagingly called me names and compared me to Grigori Rasputin (also known as the "evil genius"), Maximilien Robespierre and Julius Malema. That is his knee-jerk reaction to his own embarrassing failure during what was a live TV debate on important national issues. He wants to blame me and the programme anchor, Mutegi Njau, for his self-inflicted misfortune. He complains he did not know in advance that I had been invited. How would that have helped him? Did he want Mutegi to \’fix\’ things for him? Is that what excess power and privilege does?

Neither did I know he would be there. But as I am sure of the honesty and factual validity of my arguments, it didn\’t matter. Kagwanja has presented no evidence or facts to substantiate any of his unfounded claims and name-calling against me. He should concentrate on facts and let readers, viewers and observers pass judgment on our respective performances. He can\’t judge his own performance, can he?

Robespierre was one of the leaders and orators of the French Revolution. He was a strong advocate of the Reign of Terror which used the guillotine to settle all political differences. In the end Robespierre himself was guillotined by his political enemies. On the other hand, Rasputin used his charm and intellectual spell over Emperor Nicholas II leading to unimaginable abuses and excesses by the Romanov dynasty. Kagwanja has dragged Julius Malema\’s name only for colour.

But unlike Kagwanja, I have opposed dictatorship, corruption, ethnic exclusion and discrimination throughout my life. Together with other brave sons and daughters of Kenya, we fought the Moi Reign of Terror until its defeat. As an intellectual hawker, Kagwanja peddles snake oil for miserable and desperate Ethnic Chieftains who mistakenly believe that power and national resources are their private preserve.

As we continue the process of democratisation and constitutionalism, anti-reformers and the Moi Orphans are relying on people like Kagwanja to subvert change and undermine the full implementation of the Constitution.

The truth is that Kagwanja suffers from an undiagnosed and untreated intellectual ailment called failure. After going through his convoluted mashed-potato of an argument, my first reaction was to think of telephoning him and recommending The Harvard Business Review of April 2011, which is dedicated to "Failure: how to understand it, learn from it, and recover from it".

In a seminal article in the Review, Amy C Edmondson, Novatis Professor of leadership and management at the Harvard Business School, lists a spectrum of nine reasons for failure.

First is \’deviance\’, when an individual violates a prescribed process or practice. Second is \’inattention\’, when an individual inadvertently deviates from specifications. Third is \’lack of ability\’, when an individual doesn\’t have the skills, conditions, or training to execute a job. Fourth is \’process inadequacy\’, when an individual adheres to a prescribed but faulty or incomplete process. Fifth is \’task challenge\’, when an individual faces a task too difficult to be executed reliably every time.

Sixth is \’process complexity\’, when a process composed of many elements breaks down when it encounters novel interactions. Seventh is \’uncertainty\’, when a lack of clarity about future events causes people to take seemingly reasonable actions that produce undesired results. Eighth is \’hypothesis testing\’, when an experiment conducted to prove that an idea or a design will succeed fails. And ninth is \’exploratory testing\’, when an experiment conducted to expand knowledge and investigate a possibility leads to an undesired result.

My view is that Kagwanja\’s condition spans the entire spectrum except the last point. He exposes his incompetence and primitive noisiness and tries to operate beyond his mediocre capabilities, with spectacular failure the inevitable result.

Prof Edmondson makes important observations that might be useful to Kagwanja. She states: "Once a failure has been detected, it\’s essential to go beyond the obvious and superficial reasons… to understand the root causes… The challenge is more than emotional; it\’s cognitive, too. Even without meaning to, we all favour evidence that supports our existing beliefs rather than alternative explanations. We also tend to downplay our responsibility and place undue blame on external or situational factors when we fail [my emphasis], only to do the reverse when assessing the failures of others – a psychological trap known as fundamental attribution error [my emphasis]."

Personalising important issues is part of a juvenile strategy to deflect failure, and Kagwanja and his PNU/KKK strategists have been desperately trying to caricature, lampoon and stigmatise me for the past three years.

But trying to fit me into a KKK-tailored clown\’s garb will not work. I am not responsible for Kagwanja\’s inability to articulate his thoughts. I have not stopped him devising practical strategies and tactics for avoiding, overcoming or recovering from the numerous political debacles his side has encountered. Rather than being a captive of his tragic and repeated failures, Kagwanja should learn to embrace them, honestly analysing their causes and figuring out how he might do better in future. Blaming me will not help him.

Neither will diversions, such as suggesting that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are too powerful, too influential and too important to be tried at the ICC. Kagwanja has long been peddling the myth that the two are "anointed" leaders of two major ethnic communities, and as such should be immune from alleged responsibility in crimes against humanity.

How or when the two assumed these vaunted leadership credentials nobody knows, but for Kagwanja, power, wealth and influence apparently immunize one from legal proceedings or criminal responsibility. Kagwanja wants Uhuru and Ruto to be forgiven or "dealt with politically". He suggests that, since arsonists, petty thieves, vandals and rapists have not been prosecuted, we should not bother with the Ocampo Six. What a nerve!

Fortunately, Kenyans remain unconvinced by Kagwanja and his team of bumbling strategists. Kagwanja forgets that actual crimes were committed here between 2005 and 2009, and that there are real victims, suffering today and every day, people in their hundreds of thousands who will bear the marks of brutality and loss forever. Perpetuating the culture of impunity is not an option.

From the rigging debacle of 2007, through to formation of the Grand Coalition government, the aborted Kilaguni talks, the attempt to undermine the constitutional review process, the attempt to illegally edit the draft Constitution, the massive theft of referendum funds, the botched and unconstitutional nominations of judicial officers, the \’peace rally\’ at the 64 Stadium in Eldoret, the \’shuttle diplomacy\’ and deferral sham at the UN Security Council and now the ICC \’prayers\’ and admissibility circus, it is obvious that Kagwanja and his fellow PNU/KKK \’strategists\’ have run out of options.

I challenge anyone to show me when the ODM side has goofed as spectacularly as their counterparts on any issue.

The PNU/KKK side has been so badly exposed to ridicule, so bruised and repulsed, that they must find it difficult to keep tabs on their failures. Like all cowards and hypocrites, however, Kagwanja and Co cannot accept the fact that these retrogressive strategies have flopped – so they are forced to create a scapegoat. They will call that man a charlatan, a demagogue or any other name; try to stigmatize and isolate him; personalize everything. Their hope is that this strategy will deflect attention from their own failures.

During the second liberation struggle, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga would refer to people such as Kagwanja as "quislings" – vulgar, noisy people.

Quislings have always been with us, and they were vocal during all of Africa\’s liberation struggles. The great emancipators of our continent -Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Bantu Steve Biko, Samora Machel, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Dedan Kimathi, Patrice Lumumba, Amilca Cabral – were all in their time called charlatans and populist demagogues.

Here in Kenya, the same fate befell the leaders of the second liberation. George Anyona, Koigi Wamwere, James Orengo, Anyang\’ Nyong\’o, Raila Odinga and Ngugi wa Thiong\’o were all branded dissidents, charlatans and other more graphic names.

If I am, by Kagwanja\’s definition, a charlatan, I am proud to be in their company. To a quisling like Kagwanja, being a charlatan means being progressive, courageous and honest. He and his ilk have never stood for progressive changes and liberation of the people of Kenya from the clutches of oppression, exploitation, corruption, exclusion and discrimination.

If I was ineffective, wouldn\’t Kagwanja and Co be happy? The fact that I am causing them pain is a good result for me. We defeated retrogressive forces during the independence struggle and again during the second liberation. At the last constitutional referendum, Kenyans forced \’watermelons\’ like Kagwanja to swallow the bitter pill. During this, the third liberation struggle, we shall do it again. Mark my words.

(Mr Miguna is the PM\’s advisor on coalition affairs. The views expressed here are his own.)

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