Was This About A Rigged Election? Was It About Fight For Justice?
Monday, January 24, 2000
Orengo's Crying Wolf, Fangs at his ThroatBy JOHN GITHONGO
Kenyan politicians are given to claiming from time to time that their "political enemies" have hatched plots to kill them and/or have "poured money to finish them politically." The idea is to enhance their "profile," to show that they are a serious political threat to the powers that be. Kenyans no longer take such claims seriously.
The problem with this is that it is easy to overlook genuine claims by politicians whose lives are indeed in danger. I for one now believe that James Orengo, the Ford-Kenya MP for Ugenya and Shem Ochuodho, the National Development Party of Kenya (NDP) MP for Rangwe, are in mortal danger.
Both leaders hail from the Luo community and have been locked in an acrimonious political tug-of-war with the undisputed political giant from that part of Kenya – Raila Odinga, who heads the NDP. On the face of it, the disagreement is essentially over Mr Odinga's "strategy" of "co-operation" with the ruling party Kanu. Orengo and Ochuodho, with their contrarian views, have served to diminish Raila's stature as the political supremo of Luoland, thus also denting his credibility as someone who can bring a large and totally solid bloc of support to the table when negotiating with President Moi politically. The political contest between Raila and the two MPs, Orengo in particular, has been probably the most intense internal opposition slugfest since the reintroduction of political pluralism in Kenya.
It has also been the most violent. Several times in the past couple of years, Messrs Orengo and Ochuodho have found themselves confronted by stone-wielding gangs of Raila supporters baying for their blood. Many of these incidents have happened upcountry but have been unique for the violent intent of these gangs. A keen survival instinct would appear to have saved Orengo from nasty injury or worse on a number of occasions.
In the second week of January, Jim Orengo and Shem Ochuodho were attacked outside parliament by a gang of youths carrying knives, whips and stones. They had just left a meeting of the Stakeholders Support Group (SSG) – an informal grouping of MPs and civil-society activists who are questioning the impending resumption of aid to Kenya by the IMF. Orengo's driver saved the day when he did a quick U-turn and fled the stone-throwing gang. Meanwhile, Shem Ochuodho's car had been rammed by the Mitsubishi Pajero of an NDP politician. The People Daily described the youths as NDP supporters, saying they were heard shouting the party's slogans.
The fracas coincided with an attempted demonstration by university students opposed to the parliamentary select committee on constitutional reform, who were also attacked by the thugs. Passers-by were caught up in the melee, notably Leonard Ng'an'ga, an insurance salesman whose brutal beating was captured on television. Wananchi and MPs who spoke to the press after witnessing the attack on Orengo and Ochuodho were shocked by its viciousness and concurred that the aim appeared to be the murder of the two MPs.
The problem for Orengo and Ochuodho is that the authorities don't appear unduly perturbed that someone is trying to bump them off.
When a group of politicians rushed to the CID headquarters to report the crime, the officer on duty told the Kabete MP, Paul Muite, "If you know that not much will be done, why are you here?"
Something was done last week. Orengo was charged with "incitement" and appeared in court, while five of his attackers "recorded statements" with the police and were released. It would be sad if after what we know and after all that has happened, a few months down the road we find ourselves writing obituaries or "get well soon" cards for people whose fears were so justifiable and so apparent to all Kenyans.