Leta Siasa

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Daily Nation's Odhiambo Defamed Us- CLARION's Odhiambo Writes

OUR REF: P/454/01/05


Mr Bernard Nderitu

The Managing Editor

Daily Nation


Dear Sir,


The Centre for Law and Research International (CLARION) wishes to draw your attention to the story referred to above, which appeared on page 4 of the Daily Nation today. I decided to put this in writing after my attempts to talk to you on phone early today failed.

Your writer, Mr Odhiambo Orlale, whom we respect for his excellent reporting as consumers of news, called CLARION and talked to me on Wednesday, 20th September, a day before the said story appeared. However, from the beginning of our interview it seemed as if Mr Orlale had made up his mind about the angle his story was going to take, that is, advancing the view that CLARION cannot be an impartial civic educator because of purported links with Professor Kivutha Kibwana, the former Executive Director of CLARION, and now an Assistant Minister.

Again in our conversation, Mr Orlale appeared hell bound to make a connection between the selection of CLARION to conduct civic education in Makueni, Kaiti and Kilome constituencies and the fact of Professor Kibwana being a former director of the organisation. I laboured to explain that CLARION had in fact applied to conduct civic education in 10 districts and that we were dismayed to be assigned only three constituencies, and further, that we did not know the criteria used by CKRC to shortlist organisations. I went further to explain that we would take up the issue with CKRC since our capacity is far beyond working in three constituencies. To further emphasise the point, I pointed out to Mr Orlale that CLARION would consider boycotting the exercise since we feel we cannot create proper impact working in only three constituencies. This point was again ignored.

Just to set the record straight Professor Kibwana, whom CLARION respects as a Professor of Law of international repute, left CLARION in October 2002 when he decided to vie for the Makueni Paliamentary seat in Makueni district. This is in accordance with the organisation’s rules and regulations, which stipulate that an officer vying for parliamentary elective position has to first resign from the organisation. This was explained to Mr Orlale but he chose to ignore it. Instead, he went ahead to report that Kibwana left CLARION two years ago. What this means is that as a politician he was still running CLARION up to 2003.

In all due respect, it is not clear to myself as a reader what Mr Orlale’s story was meant to achieve. By portraying all the groups mentioned as groups that are linked to politicians the writer is clearly saying there can be no impartial civic education on the referendum around the country. To stretch the argument to its [il]logical end, it means Kenyans would be better off without civic education. We, as a human rights organisation, respect Orlale’s view even if it does not make sense to us at all.

However, we would like to point out that Orlale’s opinion puts CLARION in a quandary over its civic education programme. It is likely that civic educators associated with CLARION will face hostility since we have been portrayed as partisan. This is regrettable given the hostile political environment within the country caused by the on going Yes/No campaigns. CLARION, in fact, has to now rethink its engagement with the civic education programme because of this very real threat.

I would like to state clearly that CLARION is an institution with functioning organs including a General Assembly, a Board of Directors, a Management Committee and a Secretariat and does not rely on the goodwill of individuals to carry out its mandate. Like any other organisation anywhere in the world, CLARION was formed by individuals who had a certain vision of the society that they sought to pursue. Those individuals have since left the organisation. The professional staff members employed by CLARION have gone on with implementation of the programmes of CLARION and have contributed to the reputation being enjoyed by the organisation nationally and internationally as a leading research NGO.

We shall therefore be very glad if the impression created by your writer will be corrected.

Yours Sincerely,

Morris Odhiambo

Deputy Executive Director