This is a book review of Miguna Miguna’ book, “Treason: The Case Against Tyrants & Renegades” (2019, 427 Pages).
The political brutality of the Uhuru Kenyatta regime and the treasonous character of the then historical opposition figure, Raila Odinga are the subject matters of this moving book which is told autobiographically of the torture and exile of Lawyer-Politician Miguna Miguna. It is to a great extent the story of post- independence Africa.
Hardly had Africa won paper independence through mass supported peaceful and not generally revolutionary transformations to usher in democratic spaces from close to 100 years of colonial servitude, than the new African leaders roll back the democratic gains though top down palace coup de tats of one party state dictatorships or through military coup de tats generally with the support of foreign interests. This process unfolded from the early 1960s when most African countries became independent until the 1990s.
The construction of one party states began slowly in almost all African countries. Oginga Odinga, the father of Raila Odinga, the latter being the subject of Miguna’s book, warned about the new phenomenon of one party dictatorship, greedy class formation through land grabbing by the new elite, as early as 1967 in his book, “Not Yet Uhuru”. The recently overthrown Kwame Nkrumah wrote the foreword to that book? In the struggle for independence in Kenya, like in the rest of Africa, there was a semblance of tribal unity and cohesive nationalism and tribalism was not ascendant but invisible. Shortly after independence, a host of African leaders began to activate tribalism in order to cling to power through tribal coalitions. Kenya demonstrated this quite early on and that cancer has continued to eat at the body politic of Kenya to date. The phenomenon was reflected as well in Zambia and elsewhere, slowly at first.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, African one party states and military dictatorships began to give way to multiparty democratic dispensations, opened up to a great extent by the collapse of one party communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The 1990s were clearly the era of Africa’s second democratic Renaissance. Most African countries became democratic entities of the African variety. It did not last long. Miguna potently recounts that process in the case of Kenya.
Hardly had this second democratic imperative germinated solidly in Africa than the political elites begin to design how to cling on to power through election rigging. Kenya again demonstrates how this phenomenon was unfolding.
People resorted to the judiciaries and not military coups to vindicate their democracies through election petitions. But the judiciaries were impotent to undo the damage done to democracy through rigging. Rigging has been perfected into an art form in Africa.
This is where we pick up Miguna’s trail in his book, “Treason”. Uhuru Kenyatta had won a disputed election in 2013 through alleged rigging, disputed as that election claim was. The judiciary despite the overwhelming evidence of fraud refused to overturn that election. There was no judicial precedent for that.
Miguna claims that Uhuru began to rig the elections well in advance of the 2017 Kenyan elections. In 2013, the judiciary had saved Kenyatta. He was not going to be luck in 2017.
Kenyatta’s nightmare began on September 1st, 2017 when the Supreme Court of Kenya became the first Supreme or Constitutional Court in Africa to nullify a Presidential election, in this case the Kenyan Presidential election of August 8, 2017. This was a shocker to Uhuru and to all African leaders including the Zambian President. The Supreme Court of Kenya found that the election of August 8, 2017 were in violation of the election laws and the Kenyan Constitution. Up to date, according to Miguna, “the neo-colonial leaders like Uhuru Kenyatta do not treat the constitution with reverence and care; they view the constitution either as an instrument to be manipulated or subverted in furtherance of their selfish interests” (p. 405). This can be said of Zambia as well. Kenyatta went into a tirade against the judiciary and Miguna discusses this aspect cogently in his book. And it is applicable to all of Africa. However, unlike other African judiciaries except the South African one, the Chief Justice of Kenya answered back in defiance to the threats issued by Kenyatta.
Finally there was an actual precedent in Africa where a Presidential election petition led to the nullification of a declared Presidential election victory. No longer should African judiciaries be fear-struck and remain captured and beholden to their appointing authorities and refuse to annul rigged elections, the won’t of many African elections.
A former Chief Justice of Uganda once lamented after leaving office that the decision to award a victory to Museveni in a previous disputed election was a mistake. This was circumstantial evidence that the Ugandan judiciary knew they were making a wrong decision. Museveni’s victory in 2016 was disputed and still the judiciary gave the victory to the status quo as has been the case till then in the whole of Africa.
The 2013 election in Kenya was disputed and there is huge literature on that election pointing to the deliberate failure of the judiciary to overturn that election due to lack of any precedent at that time in which a declared Victor had been stripped of power by the judiciary. The judiciary is wary of second-guessing a people vote no matter how flawed.
Read upon the judicial challenges to rigged presidential elections in Zimbabwe and you come out swearing at the utter impotence and churlishness of the Zimbabwean judiciary. And all African judiciaries up until September 1, 2017 in Kenya.
In Zambia, the disputed election of 2001 took years for the judiciary to release the decision which at the time it was handed down would have been moot because the president had almost served his time in office. President Chiluba declared on Dr. Shaka Ssali’s Voice of Africa programme that he had rigged the election and deprived Anderson Mazoka of the presidency. We need not rehearse the result of the disputed election of 2016 in Zambia. Who is to blame for the abdication and abortion of the election petition? The jury is still out on whether it is the judiciary or the main Opposition’s lawyers that led to a cliff-hanger result which continues to eat at the Zambian body-politic.
The advantage of the Kenyan precedent was that the petition was televised. It was obvious listening to the evidence that the election was rigged. The judiciary would have looked really corrupt and insane if they rubber-stamped that election result. They made up for the ridiculous decision of 2013 if one analyses the literature on that election petition decision. However, that decision could have gone either way. This one in 2017 was so obviously rigged and the Kenyan judiciary still took its oath of office seriously. They nullified.
In Zambia neither were the election petition motions televised nor the evidence of rigging publicized. Publicity is a disinfectant. The election could have been rigged but we have no publicized evidence. The election could have been flawless but in the result that the petition was never publicized as it was in Kenya through the televised judicial process, we may never know how fair and flawless the 2016 elections in Zambia, were.
The judicial election precedent established by Kenya was temporarily humongous. When Kenyatta told the opposition to go to court if they were dissatisfied with the election result, he talked like a man who knew his judiciary. Apparently he did not know his judiciary. Most African leaders know their judiciaries. President Lungu in Zambia has openly stated so.
Raila Odinga boycotted the election rerun in Kenya among other reasons because the Kenyan Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) not only refused to resign for having deliberately botched the election but flatly refused or failed to make access to its Servers as directed by the Supreme Court. And without consequences. Odinga knew that it would be pointless to engage in an election under those circumstances.
There was another strong motivation to boycott the elections. According to Miguna, the evidence Odinga had in numerical figures, demonstrated that he had won the election so instead of a rerun, he should simply have been declared the winner. This line of thinking is what caused the Kenyan state to unleash it’s mighty forces against Miguna Miguna that led to his detentions, torture and exile so engagingly told in this book. There is no need to recount this as the whole world saw through snippets of YouTube Videos of how Miguna was treated in Kenya. The book fills in blanks that are not visible on YouTube. It is a harrowing story of torture and brutality that Miguna went through on two separate occasions in Kenya: before and during his two deportations to Canada.
Miguna’s nightmare and demonstration of Uhuru Kenyatta’s brutality towards this opposition politician, started on January 30, 2018 when Miguna swore in Raila Odinga as the duly elected “People’s President”. The state felt that that was Treason. And Miguna was shortly afterwards charged with Treason. Two days later on February 2, 2018, in the early morning, the law enforcement agencies, hundreds of them dynamited their way into Miguna’s residence in Runda District, and according to Miguna, abducted him and tortured him through various methods over several days and forcibly deported him a few days later to Canada against his will and in violation of his Kenyan Citizenship rights. They deported a person whom they had charged with Treason! Think about it.
During the standoff before the forced exile, Miguna recounts the utter lawlessness of the Kenyatta regime where the regime disobeyed a dozen court orders to bring Miguna to court for bail hearings and other reliefs. Even the forced deportation was against court orders. Miguna’s Kenyan Citizenship and passport were stripped from him without due process. In December 2018, the High Court reinstated his citizenship and ordered the Kenyan state to facilitate his return to Kenya as a Kenyan citizen and reissue him with a new Kenyan passport. The state was assessed damages in millions of Kenyan Shillings.
During this period, Miguna founded the National Revolutionary Movement of Kenya (NRMKe) which garnered tremendous support from the youth and this can be seen from YouTube videos and this is what scared the Uhuru government the most. When Miguna aligned this movement with the opposition movements controlled by Odinga, the reign of the Uhuru Kenyatta regime stood threatened and was likely to be kicked out of power before the next scheduled elections. Miguna declared that the Uhuru Kenyatta regime was illegitimate and had to go. Odinga also saw that his star was being eclipsed by Miguna and he was losing control and support. Miguna was rising.
That is when the betrayal of Miguna by Odinga began to crystallise. Miguna was organising abroad, travelling to the US, UK and other places organising for Odinga to take over power and gaining a lot of support from Kenyans abroad and within Kenya. What does Odinga do behind in Kenya? He decided, without consultation, with Miguna and his fellow opposition leaders, to enter into a pact with Kenyatta on March 9, 2018. The groundswell of support for Odinga and against Uhuru was wiped away with one handshake, which Miguna calls “hand check” between Odinga and Kenyatta on that day.
Miguna claims that Odinga was bought for 50 Billion Kenyan Shillings to flip. That is the story of Africa as well.
Miguna movingly writes, Odinga, “had betrayed Kenyans who had been denied the right to elect leaders of their choice during the 2017 election and his supporters, especially the thousands that Uhuru Kenyatta had maimed and murdered between July 2017 and March 2018, generally, and me, the man who had sworn him in at Uhuru Park on January 30, 2018 and who had paid heavily for that courage”. This is the gravamen of the book. This betrayal by Odinga of the Kenyans who had sacrificed for him in order to foster electoral justice in Kenya, the betrayal of Miguna who was charged with Treason while Odinga, the one sworn in as “People’s President” was not similarly charged!
Miguna returned to Kenya on March 26, 2018 but was not allowed back into Kenya. YouTube videos supplemented by this book partly show how he was brutalized by the Kenyatta regime. He was detained under torture at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for three days before he was disabled by the forced injection of chemicals and deported while unconscious back to Canada through Dubai. Again the Kenyatta government disobeyed all restraining court orders. The Kenyan Government is a lawless government, writes Miguna. It is a worrying trend in Africa where leaders and governments flaunt court orders.
This is a great and moving book on treasonous conduct of African politics with Kenya as exhibit “A”. What is recounted there has happened almost everywhere in Africa, and Zambia is not excerpted.
Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa lived in Canada for 40 years and knows Miguna Miguna very well as they associated in the law and politics of Canada and Africa as students and lawyers for years. They and the former Chief Justice of Kenya, Hon. Dr. Justice Willy Mutunga attended Osgoode Hall Law School at different times but associated together despite the different times they attended the same law school.