Leta Siasa

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Miguna Demands Justice for Dr.Odhiambo Mbai

By MIGUNA MIGUNA* - 25 October 2005

With a brilliant smile that permanently exposed bright cotton white teeth between dimpled cheeks, Dr. Crispin Odhiambo Mbai was a beautiful man, with an exceptionally sharp mind and a tender heart.

I am using the word beauty in all its colourful connotations. But even this does not really capture the full nature and essence of this wonderful man whose life was cut short by an assassin’s bullets.

Dr. Mbai was more than a beautiful man, husband and father. The kind of beauty Odhiambo wuod Mbai possessed, and that I would like to write about today was more profound than the physical one; it was intellectual, spiritual and humane.

Odhiambo Mbai was what I have come to term as a full and complete human being – gingerly crafted by God, with an agile mind, a sense of fairness, originality, objectivity and vivacious commitment of purpose, especially on important matters affecting his fellow human beings. Why would anybody have wanted to kill such a person?

Someone senselessly killed Odhiambo Mbai that bright Sunday September morning. A fellow Kenya brutalized his body and thought that by so doing, Dr. Mbai’s intellectual contributions to humanity would be permanently undermined. The killers attempted to destroy his legacy and the fruits of his labour.

Sadly, those who killed Odhiambo Mbai

are still free, roaming our streets, cities and villages.

Those people may have killed other innocent Kenyans before and after that fateful Sunday, September 14th, 2003. Those cold-blooded murderers may be planning, if not already executing, another cowardly assassination. Why hasn’t the Kenyan government apprehended the perpetrators of this cowardly and grisly crime?

Dr. Crispin Odhiambo Mbai was a friend of mine. We met more than fifteen years ago at the University of Toronto. He was completing his PhD in Political Science, while I was completing my BA in Political Science, a degree program that I had started but had not finished because some busy bodies at Nyayo House had other ideas about me. He gave me hope and inspiration when nearly everyone was resigning to the ravages of dictatorship and the madness of the Big Man syndrome in Kenya. Why did they rob us of Dr. Odhiambo Mbai?

I have written and spoken with all kinds of people, including serving Cabinet Ministers in this Kibaki Government – asking, beseeching and coaxing them to assist us unravel what has now turned into a mystery murder case. First, I was reassured by a prominent Cabinet Minister that the Kibaki Government was diligently working on all the leads and that sooner or later the culprits would be brought to book. That has not happened.

On other occasions, my pestering emails and promptings have been met by either dead silence or blank but otherwise sympathetic empty expressions. Why has it taken this long to bring the murderers to book?

There was a time when a Cabinet Minister in this Kibaki Government said to me, nonchalantly, that “maybe we should hire you to handle this case.” At first, I thought the man was simply expressing exasperation at my unrelenting quiet campaign to see every available stone turned in order to resolve this case. Then it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps the minister saw me as naïve and wanted to sound sarcastic; demonstrating how ignorant I might have been about the weighty matters of state secrets that he must have been dealing with. I was, of course, never hired to pursue Dr. Mbai’s killers.

Since Dr. Mbai’s murder, my mind has never resigned. It has kept asking: why has this government that came to power on our collective backs, promising justice for the wrongs of the past, been lukewarm on pursuing the trails of the suspected murderers, some of whom were cited in Tanzania by a diligent investigative journalist from the East African Standard newspaper?

Dr. Crispin Odhiambo Mbai was the architect of devolution. He made the most significant single contribution in explaining this concept to politicians, intellectuals and ordinary citizens alike. His success in having devolution entrenched in the Bomas Draft lay in his soft spoken ability to cajole and explain fundamental concepts without sounding arrogant. With his dimpled smiles and warm voice, Odhiambo Mbai was capable, almost single-handedly, in ensuring that the overwhelming majority of Bomas delegates fully understood and appreciated how significant devolution would be for their future collective success and development as a united people. Who felt threatened by Dr. Mbai’s contributions?

In the Short Version of The Report of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission released on Wednesday the 18th day of September 2002, by the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) in Mombasa, the Commission explained the process that Dr. Mbai was murdered defending as follows:

We have always considered that the review is more than merely agreeing on the terms of the new constitution. It is about self-discovery and identity. It is to give voice to the people and to affirm their sovereignty. It is to give them an opportunity for reflection on our national and constitutional history. It is also an audit on our state and government, the first truly popular assessment of the record of present and past administrations. It is a process to discover how the ordinary person defines what is to be Kenyan, and to articulate their singular and multiple identities. It is to reaffirm our commitment to a united Kenya and to resolve to find a framework for the co-existence of communities. It is to agree on, and strengthen, national values and goals. It is to find, together, the devices to realize our collective vision of caring, humane and just society…The function of constitution is not merely to provide a framework for society but to bring into being or consolidate society itself...

The foregoing were the ideals, aspirations and dreams for which Odhiambo Mbai dedicated his life and that he eventually died for. Odhiambo Mbai believed that Kenyans deserve the space, peace and environment within which they can collectively work to rediscovery their true identities and national goals as a united and indivisible people.

If we cherish the ideals for which Dr. Mbai paid the ultimate price, then we, as patriotic Kenyans, must conduct the ongoing referendum campaign in a tolerant, understanding and peaceful manner. Our collective attention should be directed at expressing our sovereignty as a people while at the same time auditing the government’s record since taking power, particularly its role in advancing or sabotaging our dreams of bringing into life our collective vision of a caring, humane and just society. If our audit determines that either the referendum process or the Wako Draft fails to fulfill these dreams, then, we, as conscious people, must hold this government to account by voting NO on November 21st.

Dr. Mbai believed in true and fundamental devolution of government; not chimeras. In all his contributions at Bomas, he asserted the need for Kenyans to determine how much they were taxed, how their taxes were utilized and where. In essence, Dr. Mbai stood and died for the empowerment of all Kenyans, irrespective of their differences. Could this have been the real threat he posed?

As our politicians criss-cross our beautiful country looking for votes, oranges and bananas, Dr. Mbai would have demanded that our political leaders explain to the people how the Wako Draft would ensure that all future presidents relinquish excess powers, act fairly in addressing our national problems, demonstrate intelligence, integrity and sensitivity in handling all public affairs.

Dr. Mbai scarified his life so that Kenyans can live free of all excesses, including the perennial corrupt practices. Can our leaders please explain why justice has not been done in this case?


*The writer is a Kenyan practicing law in Toronto, Canada