Monday, 3 June 2013

Raila Odinga blocked from VIP lounges

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 Raila Odinga barred from accessing airport VIP lounge

JKIA locks out Raila out of VIP room

Update: the Kenya Ports Authority now denys that Raila was barred from the VIP lounge kAA by Lydia Matata 

Update related article: It was thoughtless to frustrate Raila at Airport lounge by Philip Ochieng

I shudder at the thought that a future regime may eject Jaduong’ Mwai Kibaki or Jaduong’ Moody Awori from our VIP facilities merely because they no longer hold high state offices.
The Luo honorific jaduong’ is highly illustrative of my point. The adjective duong’ refers primarily to physical size and chronological age – the two things into which we all grow after birth.
But chronological age also confers knowledge, memory, wisdom and, in many cases, power, authority and respect.

In tradition, I think, this is true of all African communities – indeed, of all human peoples at the gentile level of socio-economic formation. I am told that the Kikuyu word munene and the Kiswahili word mkubwa have the same semantic career and social significance.
What’s more, unless he commits a sacrilegious act, a man who acquired such a title of power, authority and respect retained that title even after he left office (including through death).
That is why human societies raise monuments to their warriors, liberators, magi of knowledge and technique and other heroes of yore.
That is why we, in Kenya, have mounted statues to commemorate Dedan Kimathi, Jomo Kenyatta and Tom Mboya and should mount them for our other heroes and heroines of the struggle to defeat British imperialism in Kenya.
By the same token, whenever a person is in authority – notwithstanding his body size and chronological age – all gentile communities traditionally bowed in front of him as munene, mkubwa, jaduong’, ruoth, omwami, suchlike.
That is why – although Uhuru Kenyatta is spindly in body and more than two decades my junior – I have no problem recognising him as Jaduong’ Maduong’ (“paramount chief”).
Although I have frequently criticised his activities, I have no problem thinking of him as my elder brother – in social status – and thus giving him every due that I owe him as such. On the other hand, against the resources we fritter away in useless “projects”, privileged treatment of individuals who have vitally served this country in all fields costs virtually nothing.
This mutual service respect – from the younger generation to the older and from the older to the younger – was what Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto themselves promised this country when they campaigned on the platform of youth taking over from Mr Kibaki’s gerontocrats.
It was thus that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere introduced the expressive Zanaki word ng’atuka into Kiswahili.
Kung’atuka is to progressively retire from active leadership in favour of more energetic blood and more idealistic brain. Those who ng’atuka continue to serve vital roles through avuncular sanction, through caution, through tuition.
That is why the generation which takes over cannot afford to treat its immediate predecessors as ignominiously as we have just treated our former Prime Minister.
A wise management group cannot subject its Kalonzos, Musalias and their opposite numbers in other walks of life to the embarrassment Mr Odinga suffered this last week. If the urge is merely to wreak revenge upon your election rivals, then it is astonishingly thoughtless and childish.
First, you succeed merely in undermining the same government in the international public’s eyes.
Secondly, you are playing the pro-Odinga-Musyoka communities against the government. By mistreating their perceived leader(s), you are making them feel that Uhuru Kenyatta is not their President. You are suggesting to them to withdraw their cooperation and support.
Uhuru Kenyatta’s government also requires the entire world’s goodwill. But this week we received headlines the world over which depict our MPs as Maneaters of Tsavo and our State House as bent on wreaking revenge upon its election rivals.
That kind of headline can only undermine the very government you think you are helping by your juvenile behaviour. That is why Uhuru needs to punish those responsible for this juvenile disorder.

Update related article: Treating Raila Odinga so shoddily is unworthy of a reasonable government by Macharia Gaitho

It is now official. If Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, Portia Simpson-Miller of Jamaica, David Cameron of Britain, Manmohan Singh of India, or Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel paid us a visit, the government would deny them the use of the presidential pavilion and the top VIP lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The official Kenya Government position is that a Prime Minister is a second-rate leader who can never be accorded the privileges befitting a president.
Therefore as merely a former prime minster, Mr Raila Odinga cannot enjoy the same access to the VIP sanctums granted his co-principal in the defunct Grand Coalition government, retired President Mwai Kibaki; or the other ex-president, Daniel arap Moi.
That was the gist of the government stand delivered in Parliament last Thursday by ever-garrulous Majority Leader Aden Duale in response to the brouhaha over the former Prime Minister suddenly being shut out of government VIP lounges at Kenyan airports.
Mr Duale took the House through the various VIP facilities at the airports and made it clear that a prime minister, or a former prime minister, in the officially-recognised hierarchy, ranks nowhere near the President, Deputy President or retired presidents.
From Mr Duale’s argument, the operative rank is ‘president’ and therefore no mere minister, even if ranked as prime, should dream of accessing the top VIP facilities.
The argument advanced by Mr Duale would be laughable, but for the fact that he was not demonstrating his own ever-vacuous reasoning, but the official view of the government.
What the government forgot is that the title prime minister is not exclusive to Mr Odinga, but to many leaders from around the world, who will sooner or later be paying official visits to Kenya.
The Majority Leader was actually echoing, with suitable embellishment, a letter written last month by the Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia warning airport officials against allowing unauthorised persons to use VIP lounges.
Mr Kimemia did not have to mention Mr Odinga by name, but that he appended a list of ranks of ‘authorised’ VIP’s, who included the former presidents but not the former prime minister, was enough evidence who was targeted.
Airport officials, under threat of summary dismissal, got the message and acted on the letter.
Now, this rally should be no big deal under any circumstances. If President Kenyatta’s minions insist on infantile displays of power, it might have been better for Mr Odinga to stand above the useless din and ignore them.
Mr Odinga’s aides need not have gone to histrionics reminiscent of the nusu mkeka affair.
However, there is an important principle at play. The VIP lounge affair reminds us that Kenya’s government policy is sometimes being driven by an amazingly petty and vindictive mindset.
Leaders at any level deserve a modicum of respect even if one disagrees with them.
That is why, when President Kibaki took power in 2003, he had no problem assenting to President Moi’s retirement benefits, and privileges such as security and staff. He even allowed him to remain in the government house he had used since his days as Vice-President.
In retirement now, President Kibaki too enjoys all the perks due to him.
Granted that Mr Odinga is not retired yet, but there is still no reason to hound him and humiliate him. The elements who so fiercely opposed his status as President Kibaki’s co-principal on the coalition government are clearly intent on keeping him in his place even after that shot-gun marriage served out its term. Treating a vanquished election rival so is primitive behaviour unbecoming of modern democracy.
One must wonder why backward elements in the Uhuru Kenyatta regime hate Mr Odinga with such venom. Or is there something they instinctively fear in having him still around as an opposition leader?
After the disputed electoral victory and the Supreme Court decision, they were all over with their new ‘accept and move on’ creed. But it is clear now they are the ones refusing to accept and move on.

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