Gitobu Imanyara was our first runner up to the person of the year 2010 and once again this seemingly unlucky Kenyan politicial giant was denied the accolades after making some very commendable contributions in the year 2010. Is the guy jinxed or what?
Looking at the career of Mr Imanyara one cannot help but feel that he surely deserves much more than what life has handed to him so far. Let’s compare him to two very lucky Kenyan politicians who have played it safe contributed very little and reached the top. Namely Mwai Kibaki and Kalonzo Musyoka.
When Gitobu was getting in and out of police detention Mwai Kibaki was enjoying life as usual, flashing the one finger KANU salute. Indeed Mwai Kibaki has never seen what the inside of a police cell looks like. All his political career he has been the overcautious politician who would agonize for months when they reached the edge of a political cliff with nowhere else to turn except to jump down into the water below. A case in point was after the controversial 1988 infamous queue-voting general elections.
Bored handlers of president Moi itching for a challenge after having shot down everything that could move as far as a threat to the Moi presidency (real or imagined) was concerned turned their attention to the then cowardly and extremely harmless Vice President. They decided to rig him out of his Othaya parliamentary seat and everything was in place for the shock announcement that some obscure politician called Muriuki or something like that had defeated Kibaki in the 1988 parliamentary elections. But when Othaya constituents heard of the scheme most men (and some women) went home and fetched their pangas to come and hear the announcement of the election results. The DC sensed serious trouble and hurriedly called Nairobi for direction. In the end Mwai Kibaki was announced victor and his opponent needed heavy police protection to hurriedly get the hell out of town. Still when Moi announced his new cabinet a few days later the Vice President was a man called Prof Josphat Karanja and Kibaki was relegated to a mere Minister for Health. Still he did nothing and sat on the uncomfortable fence until Christmas day 1991 (the very last minute because elections were due in 1992) when he announced his defection from Kanu to a new political party that he had just formed with others called DP (Democratic Party of Kenya). That’s Kibaki for you.
Kalonzo Musyoka is not any different and was at the heart of Kanu mama na baba as Imanyara struggled to stay alive. Musyoka is now the Vice President while Imanyara is not even in the cabinet.
It seems Kenyan politics has always favoured the cowardly and the compromisers (read details in my landmark book Dark Secrets of the Kenyan Presidency. You can now get your copy for FREE HERE.)
And Gitobu Imanyara’s troubles seem to be far from over even when Kenya has gained so much democratic space thanks mainly to Imanyara’s personal sacrifices and endless suffering in police cells and torture chambers. What comes to mind right away is the recent incident where he was slapped by first lady Lucy Kibaki in State House.
This is the fascinating East African Standard report on the issue (the account was from Imanyara himself);
Imanyara said he had cut short a trip to South Africa to attend the meeting (at State House Nairobi), also graced by Vice-President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, and Internal Security minister, Prof George Saitoti.
Imanyara said after going through the security checks at State House, they were ushered into a conference room.
After taking a seat and introducing himself to the President, the MP said, State House Comptroller, Mr Hyslop Ipu, came in and whispered to him that he should leave the room.
“I thought this was quite rude for a junior officer to come where the President was and ask me to leave the room,” said a visibly angry Imanyara.
Shortly afterwards, Imanyara recounted, the Head of the Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr Francis Muthaura, came to ask whether they could talk outside.
“At this time, I could hear loud screams of a female shouting all kinds of words. I did not know who it was,” said Imanyara.
The Imenti Central legislator said as he was talking to Muthaura, the First Lady burst into the scene screaming: “This is the man that took the First Lady to the courts. Nobody comes to State House without my permission!”
Imanyara said she went on: “You are a friend of the Luos. Foolish Merus voted for you.”
At this juncture, said Imanyara, the First Lady came forward and started throwing punches at him, which he ducked.
“Nobody takes the First Lady to court. Nobody gets away with it,” Imanyara quoted her as saying.
He said Mrs Kibaki vowed that he would not get any Government appointments as long as she was at State House.
And on allegations that he was punched, Imanyara said: “The First Lady is too short and no punch touched me, neither did I return any.”
Imanyara said security at the corridors of State House stood by and watched as the whole episode unfolded.
The MP said at some point, he was asked to leave State House and he obliged.
Speaking at the Serena Hotel, Nairobi, Imanyara lashed out at the First Lady for trying to create an impression that State House was her property.
“At this rate, we don’t know who is in charge at State House. Kibaki needs to remove the First Lady from State House,” said Imanyara.
So who is Gitobu Imanyara?
After Imanyara spent more than two years in Maximum Security Prison on charges associated with his work as a human rights lawyer, he founded the Nairobi Law Monthly in 1987. It was not supportive of Daniel arap Moi's one party policy and Imanyara was arrested for not registering the magazine.
He was again arrested 1n 1990 after writing a special issue entitled "The Historic Debate: Law, Democracy, and Multi-Party Politics in Kenya." At one point he was held in a prison psychiatric ward, though he re-released the issue following his own release. Receiving the International Editor of the Year by the World Press Review while in prison, he was called "the boldest voice for a free press in a country whose intolerant government does not hesitate to shut down publications and where most journalists practice self censorship."
Imanyara was arrested for a third time in April 1991 after police confiscated that moneth’s issue of the Nairobi Law Monthly. The offending information was about the formation of an opposition political party. It is instructive that he went on to become the founding secretary general of the Forum for the Restoration of Demoracy, FORD KENYA, 1990-2002. This was the first opposition party to be registered in Kenya for many decades.
While in custody, Imanyara developed a brain tumour. Luckily it was successfully treated. Kenyan aid money went down significantly after that arrest, and the U.S. State Department called it "another denial of freedom of expression in Kenya." Imanyara was awarded the World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom Award later that year, but due to authorities not allowing him to leave the country for it, Liberal International President Otto Lambsdorff brought it personally to Nairobi in early 1992.
At the Kenyan general elections in December 1997, he won a regional landslide victory and was elected MP for Central Imenti Constituency. He continued to publish his magazine, which was renamed the Africa Law Review.
Posted at the Nairobi School website www.oldcambrians.com. Imanyara is an alumni of the elitist boy’s boarding school in Nairobi:
# House Prefect, Scott House 1972
# Head of Scott and School Prefect 1973
# University of Nairobi 1974-1977, LL.B
# Kenya School of Law 1978
# Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, from 1979
# Member of Parliament 1997-2002
# Founding Secretary General, Forum for the Restoration of Demoracy, FORD KENYA, 1990-2002
# Founding Publisher and Editor in Chief, The Nairobi Law Monthly
# Internatinal Board Member, Article 19, The International Centre Against Censorship, London, 1990-2000
# International Adisory Editorial Board Member, Human Rights Quaterly,USA
# Chairman,The Great Lakes Parliamentary Forum on Peace,[Kenya,Uganda,Tanzania,Rwanda,Burundi,Zambia, Zanzibar] 1997-2002
# World Press Review's Internatinal Editor of the Year, 1990, New York
# World Association's Golden Pen of Freedom Laureate, Paris 1991
# Harvard University's Nieman Fellow's Louis m. Lyons Award Laureate, 1991, USA
# Liberal International's Prize of Freedom Laureate 1991, Switzerland
# Human Rights Award 1991 International Human Rights Law Group, Washington
# Internatinal Biographic Centre, Cambridge, UK's 2000 Outstanding Scholars of the 20th Century, 2000
Kumekucha salutes you Gitobu Imanyara. Our position is that you could make an excellent presidential candidate for 2012.
Gitobu Imanyara's brother died because of a piece of meat
My encounter with Lucy Kibaki
Book gives clues on Lucy Kibaki's condition
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