Kitendawili is the Swahili word for puzzle. Indeed the most prominent Luo political personality currently, Prime Minister Raila Odinga loves to use these Swahili puzzles to get his points across at public rallies.
But political analysts are agonizing over what I will call the Luo puzzle.
Consider the following.
No other Kenyan community has gotten so close to the presidency and still come up short. In the run up to independence the two front runners to be the first president of Kenya were both Luos. Namely Tom Mboya and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. If it was another community the two would have sat together and sewn up the deal easily. Instead a vicious struggle between the two ensued that handed over the presidency to another community and Jomo Kenyatta. But all was not lost. Oginga Odinga was appointed the Vice President and Kenyatta was rapidly aging. All he had to do was to sit tight for a few years and he would have easily become president after all Daniel arap Moi did it after him. If there were any slip ups then the young flamboyant Mboya (who was already being hailed by the Western media as a President in waiting) would have taken over. Again the community blew it. Oginga ended up in political oblivion and Mboya died shortly after finishing Oginga politically. Then came 1982 and finally the community had one of it’s own at the helm of power, albeit for about 30 minutes. Some insist the coup of August 1st caused senior private Hezekiah Ochuka to be president of Kenya but for brief chaotic 30 minutes. It is worth noting that many (including this blogger) are convinced that such a junior officer of the air force would have been incapable of acting on his own and there were other bigger names behind him. There is of course the still unique case of one Master sergeant Samuel Doe of Liberia who carried out a successful coup in the 80s and ruled that troubled country for some years.
Then came the most astounding and astonishing event yet in the history of the Luo community and the presidency. In the 2007 presidential race, Raila Odinga won the presidency by a landslide (according to Kumekucha estimates). The elections were stolen and the worst that should have happened is that Mr Odinga would have remained out of government and waited for the next elections. Instead a power sharing arrangement (where the winner received bread crumbs in terms of power from the loser of those elections) was mooted to keep peace in the country. As you read this the writing is clearly on the wall for Raila’s political future and whatever the ODM diehards say, it will be easier for a hungry Tana crocodile to ignore the soft supple flesh of a child bathing at the shores and swim away than it will be for Mr Raila Odinga to ever live in State House as the president of Kenya.
What the hell is wrong?
I once heard this long shot theory of how the community has been cursed never to rise to the presidency. But that particular theory was blown sky high when the son of a Kenyan Luo, Barack Hussein Obama rose to the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth. Or was it? (I will discuss this very controversial point in more detail later on this weekend).
And so that is the big Luo political kitendawili.
I have had the privilege of getting to know the Luo very well. Ironically I was born in Kisumu (now Kisumu City) and over the years fate has kept me close to the community and that interesting city by some amazing twists including the fact that the best friend I ever had (the late G) was a Luo. And so I am in a unique position to talk about the community from a neutral point of view. Indeed from this point I will punctuate my prose with bold comments of what good old G would have said to some of the most controversial statements I will make here. Rest in peace my dear brother.
Chris, you are one melodramatic Kenyan. Now you want to elevate me to saintly status. Vanity my friend, you know my views on that, there is only one who can be worshiped. Secondly you have brains. The Luo will skin you alive for what you want to do here, we like to keep some truths unspoken.
I sat at this Luo entertainment spot in Kisumu and listened to the sad beat of popular Tony Nyadundo. The dance floor was packed with gyrating revelers many of them sweating profusely and with their eyes closed. It was as if they were hungrily drinking in the sadness. Enjoying it and all the tragedy and bad luck that has befallen this community. A friend recently said of the community “they always seem to have this great sadness hanging over them.”
I will be lying if I say I was not enjoy the Tony Nyadundo music and the sadness with them, although I was not on the dance floor yet. I was still seated reflecting on this humid city that has always appeared from the blue at very critical points of my life. My parents were traveling when they had to hurriedly stop over in Kisumu for me to be born. I met my wife of 20 years in Kisumu about 20 years later. Then when I was down and out and a hopeless alcoholic I met G (who called Kisumu his home town). And now at a critical point of Kenya’s political history, I am taking my readers back to this place. This place where I hope to pick the answers they wait for to help them solve the big Luo political puzzle.
But my thoughts are interrupted by a great looking young girl who passes my table and flashes a big smile at me whose meaning is obvious.
…To be continued later today.