Monday, 2 December 2013

Miguna: Why I hit Raila below the belt

Mr Miguna Miguna. He dramatically fell out with his boss Raila Odinga and wrote a sensational book, which the former PM claimed was sponsored by the National Intelligence Service to hurt him. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW
Friday, November 29, 2013
Mr Miguna Miguna. He dramatically fell out with his boss Raila Odinga and wrote a sensational book, which the former PM claimed was sponsored by the National Intelligence Service to hurt him. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW  

He is probably the most cantankerous Kenyan alive. And while his critics see the rough-edged Miguna Miguna as an arrogant bully with a bloated sense of self-importance, his supporters think he is a brilliant lawyer fighting for the national good.
His expansive house, which sits on a three-quarter-acre plot in Runda depicts the man’s fat appetite. He stays here alone. And he won’t entertain the Nyumba Kumi intrusion. With the large number of books there, you can easily convert it into a library for your local town.
Mr Miguna dramatically fell out with his boss Raila Odinga and wrote a sensational book, which the former PM claimed was sponsored by the National Intelligence Service to hurt him. Nonsense, says Miguna.
The abrasive Canada-trained lawyer is excited that Odinga lost the March election. But he has no kind words for President Kenyatta either, and thinks the Jubilee government is clueless on the International Criminal Court, security and foreign policy.
What makes him so abrasive?
“I am the lastborn and I breastfed until I was in Standard One. Coming after five sisters made me defensive,” he told us.
Q: How do you stay alone in this massive house? Don’t you feel lonely?
A: No, my friend. A man who has been in exile and detention does not feel lonely. I am okay. I spirited my family away to safety in Canada as those criminals could have done anything to them. But I had to come back because ODM was spreading propaganda that I had fled the country. I returned just to show I had not run away.
Q: What is the root of your love for the written word?
A: It is difficult to say the genesis of my passion for books, but since my school days, I have loved books and perhaps it’s reinforcement from my mother, who respected education and insisted that I get one, despite being illiterate herself. I was very aggressive right from my primary school, and this also played a role, I was always eager to learn.
Q: Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya and Kidneys for the King are massive books. Where do you draw the energy to write such volumes within a short time?
A: Everybody has energy and can write, but in my case, it’s a question of priority and passion. As early as primary school, I learnt to keep a diary of everything that happens around me and this way, I can always reproduce all events and experiences, I do this to date.
Q: What body of knowledge most fascinates you?
A: I am what you can call an eclectic reader. I am a disciplined reader, but I don’t read one form of literature — I read everything that deals with the human condition. Recently, I have been reading a lot of memoirs and biographies and books dealing with political strategy and struggle. Of course, I also read law to earn a living.
Q: Which literature has made a lasting impression on you?
A: Grapes of Wrath by Bhabani Bhattacharya, Mwalimu D.O. Misiani’s music, a very practical commentary on social ills and issues. During the repressive Kanu regime, he had a metaphoric name for all our oppressors. I also found Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s I Will Marry When I want very awakening. Also Matigari and Barrel of the Pen, then books on and by Marcus Garvey and Malcom X.
Q: What are you reading now?
A: The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and From Third World First by Lee Kuan Yew.
Q: Your critics accuse you of being Rasputin, the “evil genius” who always bites the finger that feeds him.
A: How would I survive if I did that? To survive in North America as an African and a black man with no godfather, start a law firm and stay afloat for more than 10 years, is success that one cannot achieve if he bites the finger that feeds him.
I am a successful man; I live in Runda, for God’s sake. Failures don’t live here and I don’t live here because of Raila, neither do I live here on mortgage or courtesy of the National Intelligence Service. Do you see auctioneers out there waiting to pounce on me?
Q: Some dismiss you as a big mouthed charlatan.
A: Even if they think I am just barking, I have the right to bark — these are some of the rights enshrined in the Constitution. But I wish they could listen to the substance of what I say because most of the time, I have been proven right. When Jaramogi Oginga Odinga wrote Not Yet Uhuru, he was not celebrated, he was instead vilified. What about now?
Q: So this talk that you were used by Jubilee to bring down Raila, that your book projects were bankrolled by the state has no truth?
A: That is nonsense. I was not paid to write the book. Writing a book is a lawful exercise and whoever is aggrieved with it should go to court.
Q: Talking of books, what is your take on Raila Odinga’s The Flame of Freedom?
A: The book is just a catalogue of events in a way that looks like a historical treatise. Everything in the book you can find in the old newspapers. Also, there are glaring falsehoods in it. The first time anybody heard of Raila Odinga was after the attempted coup of 1982. He should have told us how his political consciousness came about and shed light on his alleged involvement in the coup. He also lies about his detention. There is no detention in Kenya where inmates are given gardens to grow vegetables and flowers — here you just dig as a group. He is conveniently distorting history in this book.
Q: Ahead of the March 4 General Election, you wanted Uhuru to thrash Raila. Do you sleep easy now that he was defeated?
A: Yes he was thrashed. The defeat serves him right. Because of the kind of systems and structures we have, I advised Raila that he should oppose the quest to have the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission embrace technology. I knew that these things could be easily hacked. One can even sit in Beijing and hack it. I am not saying elections were rigged, but even if they were it serves him right.
Q: Do you sometimes regret that perhaps you have been a bit too hard on Mr Odinga?
A: How was I supposed to hit back after he kicked me in the groin? I was hitting at him to stay alive. He suspended me in the media when he had sent me to represent him in a strategy meeting the way Moi used to do. He thought I would turn the other cheek like James Orengo and the others? I don’t do that. In so doing, he demonstrated that he did not care about my reputation, my family; I had to take him head on as he had effectively become an enemy.
Q: How would you rate the performance of the Jubilee government?
A: If Uhuru was surrounded by intellectuals, he would not be messing up like they’re doing over the ICC issue. Their statements at the inauguration were very inspiring but they have now allowed the ICC to divert their attention and it has swept them away completely, particularly the President. For instance, the State Law Office grinds to a halt each time trips are made to The Hague or when they travel. Their foreign policy is completely wrong; you cannot fight the West and win. You don’t blackmail your way to success in international politics, you explain yourself intelligently, diplomatically and coherently.
The President’s failure to institute a judicial commission of inquiry into the Westgate attack despite an earlier promise also reflects badly on him; it is true that the military looted the damn place.
Q: What is your view of the Nyumba Kumi initiative?
That thing is a violation of our fundamental rights, particularly the Bill of Rights on freedom of association. Who told the President that this is the solution to insecurity? You know there are certain things which Raila says, and he may not say them as I would have said, but he is right on this. It is like prescribing medication before diagnosis. You cannot dictate to me the people I talk to. What if I say I don’t want to see my nine neighbours?
Q: At some point you said you had materials which could haul more people to the ICC.
A: I was speaking in response to those who were crying about what I had revealed. What I said was that there are so many things which, if I were to write about, would be really embarrassing for some of these people and that’s why Raila didn’t sue me for what I wrote. At times, it is just good to count your losses and go and that’s what he did. You have heard, for example, reports that TNA funds were misappropriated but you have not seen anybody being sacked or being taken to court. You know you might sack somebody thinking that he is just a driver, but the things he could say could bring everybody down. Look at the current scandal involving former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch.
Q: Have you stepped foot in Ahero since they burnt your effigy?
A: I have gone there but surreptitiously. You know a lot of people there are still very mad at me. In fact, there is now a weed which is destroying crops in South Nyanza. They have called it by my name. Raila has never come out to calm these people.
Q: Have you made peace with them?
A: This is one region whose leaders pride themselves as having delivered the return of multi-partyism, but they have not embraced it themselves. Look, for example, at the Kikuyus who supported him, they are going about their businesses normally. See the victims’ lawyer at the ICC, Wilfred Nderitu; he walks about town without coming into harm’s way.
Q: So which way for Nyanza politics?
A: Nyanza’s sickness is hero worshipping and because of that, they are among some of the poorest people in this country. The situation calls for a change of attitude so that one is not elected because they have been anointed by Raila but because they are their own women and men. Somebody like Raila has been in a leadership position for 20 years, most of them as a minister and Prime Minister. But he has nothing for his people despite the capability and massive connections beyond the borders. If he had done something for Nyanza and said look: ‘this is what I can do for the rest of the country,’ it might have helped him.
Q: What mischief are you up to? Any more exposes?
A: I am currently writing, but it does not have to be about Raila. But again, there are a lot of things I could still write about him but because of self-restraint, I choose not to. There are things which, if I were to write them, would be too shameful for him.
Q: You wanted to be governor of Nairobi, but did not make it to the ballot. Were you broke, unpopular or both?
A: Finances — that is the truth. I got a lot of support from city residents especially from the young people after my book was launched, but I was going to run against billionaires whose source of money you don’t know. I also realised that it was going to be a big risk on my life given the hostile reaction after my book launch in certain quarters. What many people don’t know about me is that I am a pragmatic person. I am realistic. Even before I sue I calculate properly. I don’t sue for sport.
Q: What next for Miguna Miguna?
A: Well, I am living. I’m not begging, I am not on my knee for a job. I’m licensed to practice law so when a client comes I represent them. I am also a draftsman and when I get a writing engagement I do it. I do a lot of that in this town for lawyers. But I would be lying to you if I told you that I am thriving.
Q: Would you accept a job from Uhuru?
A: Why not? Although I think people might not hire me because they know when push comes to shove, I would side with the country. And even if he gave me a job, Uhuru would not be doing it as Uhuru, but as the President, the representative of the people.

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