By MURITHI MUTIGA firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Saturday, June 29 2013 at 21:03
Posted Saturday, June 29 2013 at 21:03
Mr Mkapa is well known for his bubbly, jovial demeanour but this time he had a concerned look on his face.
“Raila,” he said. “Ni jambo gani hii nasoma kwa magazeti ati wewe huwezi tumia VIP (lounge) JKIA? (What is this I hear that you cannot use the VIP lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi?).”
“It is true,” Mr Odinga said. “You and (Frederick) Sumaye (former Prime Minister of Tanzania) can use the VIP lounge in Kenya but I cannot.”
Mr Odinga told that story with a chuckle in an interview with the Sunday Nation on Friday.
But he was making a more serious point. The ODM party leader has in the recent past become the target of what appears to be a campaign of intimidation and bullying by elements within the government, including the withdrawal of most security personnel assigned to him and the vehicles they used.
One of the country’s most senior political figures now travels around without a police escort and his personal security detail has been cut down to the bare minimum. He and his family were also notoriously subjected to humiliation when they were barred from using the VIP lounges at the airport three weeks ago while on trips to Kisumu and a second time before Mr Odinga travelled to the US.
The disputes Mr Odinga has engaged in with the authorities and the repeated security breaches at his offices have raised questions about the maturity of the nation’s democratic culture.
In stable democracies on the continent such as Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius and Tanzania, former presidents, vice- presidents and prime ministers are offered state security and reasonable levels of compensation after leaving office.
Mr Odinga said the Jubilee administration should borrow a leaf from those countries although he was at pains not to blame the treatment to which he has been subjected directly to either President Kenyatta or Deputy President William Ruto.
“I am ordinarily not the complaining type,” Mr Odinga said. “I recognise that there is another government in power and they are entitled to their attitudes. But I think we should be a civilised country that respects its citizens. Everybody has rights: children, the sick, the disabled, the infirm, the aged, everybody. At every stage of life people should be treated with respect. It’s a culture we should institutionalise.”
The Cord leader pointed to the almost total withdrawal of the security personnel assigned to him to illustrate his point.
“In my home (in Karen) there is only one person. When he is asleep, I have nobody there. The guards assigned to my home are not provided with transport. That leaves the question whether they are supposed to carry guns in a matatu. I was a Prime Minister who was an equal partner with the President.
That’s why I had 20 ministers and Kibaki had 20 ministers. They say I’m not entitled to anything. I am not a VIP. Look what they do for the others. Nyayo (former President Moi) is given six cars. Kibaki has 25 guards. He has been given a budget of Sh250 million for an office. What about me? Don’t I have things to do? I have not been paid even a single cent in pension since I left office. Yet I served as an MP for 20 years, as a minister and prime minister. How am I supposed to survive for the rest of my life?”
Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia declined to comment and asked that all inquiries be directed to Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo. When Mr Kimaiyo was reached, he said he was in meetings and could not discuss the issue.
Key leaders in government, including House Majority Leader Aden Duale, have demanded that Mr Odinga retires from politics before he can receive any retirement benefits but the former PM dismissed this out of hand.
“I am not their subject. I can’t be ordered around by the spokesmen of people. They never brought me into politics and they can’t force me to retire. I will not be held to ransom because of benefits.
It’s a carrot they are dangling before me but they should be more civilised. I have a mission in politics and it is to serve the people. Only they can tell me to retire and not some government functionaries.”