There is little to cheer in Amos Kimunya's departure, as Amos Kimunya, from the cabinet and Ministry of Finance last Tuesday. He was merely "stepping aside," he reasoned himself into a certain anti-frenzy, avoiding thus a not-at-all-certain death. And that's good for him and his family -- and us. There is little to cheer about; instead, there is much to reflect upon. Cheers, nonetheless, to President Kibaki for displaying a rare firm hand -- for re-affirming what was hitherto only tell-tale and all-too-sporadic -- in the name of accountable governance.
Departures of such high-profile public figures -- who are so easily caught up in a self-created air of untouchability, and numbed by our cheering and all the opportunity for self-aggrandizement that's still theirs for the taking -- are going to have to be routine, if ordinary Kenyans are to have a fighting chance against hard life.
There is little to cheer because impunity and the temptation to pull a fast one and to hide the truth -- even truth which cannot be hidden in broad daylight and even in the dark (truth which cannot escape the knowing rumour) -- still stalk the land.
There is much to reflect upon because (and I'll make only four points for now): One, Libya, with its relatively large sovereign wealth fund, is, it seems to me, making willing prostitutes of certain of our revered politicians; politicians who think (or hope) we don't really think (when we really do), and who would like to believe that we cannot work our thoughts into believing all that we're hearing (when we can) -- though they so cleverly endeavour to scorch it (and with it our very thoughts and ascendant beliefs).
How else does one explain the sudden "ever-presence" (effervescence) of Tamoil and Oilibya -- and the unprompted but subliminally incriminating declarations that no leader is indispensable? Is Parliament's Finance Committee or the Cockar Commission really going to reveal the flesh-and-blood identities of the Kenyan interests associated with these outfits, and to tell us if they had anything to do with the Grand Regency saga as it has unfolded? Will they, too, face the music -- or will we be, once again, put in our place and silenced by threats of raw blood?
Two, with Kimunya's departure, and assuming that he will not be returning to Treasury even if he were to return to the cabinet, all eyes are back on President Kibaki: will he this time escape bad routine (indeed bad karma) -- and the perception that he cannot bring himself to appoint anyone from outside "Mount Kenya" to the top post at Treasury? Will he go against the grain and appoint someone from elsewhere in Kenya to succeed Kimunya, and not in an acting capacity? There is sufficient talent in Parliament for that -- for what would be a healthy dose of realism and 21st century nationalism. That would be reason to cheer -- even if mutedly -- and not at Kimunya's expense. Rather, at the expense of narrow-mindedness and parochialism.
What would be disastrous -- utterly disastrous to true meritocracy -- would be to elevate Oburu Oginga, the present Assistant Minister at Treasury, to Kimunya's post. There would simply be no rhyme or reason for that, as I think very many Kenyans believe. Not only do they believe that, they dread the prospect and implications of such appointment.
Three, many Kenyans still believe that Libya played an important part in the bombing of Norfolk Hotel, in Nairobi, at the end of 1980. Some twenty eight years later, Kenyans in high places are trying to outdo each other to deliver the iconic Grand Regency Hotel to that same Gaddafi. They are crazy enough! Americans are being "handsomely" compensated for Lockerbie. Did Kenya receive a cent (or a dime)specifically for the deaths and other damage at Norfolk -- or did the compensation quietly go into certain of our politicians' palms and pockets?
Four, I think Kimunya's background in "pure" accountancy denied him the political sensibilities and social skills to navigate the treacherous waters in which a Minister for Finance, or any politician we should emulate, must swim. Often, this glaring lack presented as arrogance and ethnic chauvinism -- but it was at root fatally flawed incapacity to lead a public-life attuned maximally to the cross-currents of a multi-cultural society; and to the need for broad-based equity, in a nation that remains highly unequal and polarized. Before his tendency toward spectacularly bad judgement showed itself in Grand Regency, we had seen it most tellingly in the Safaricom IPO saga, and in the key appointments that he made as Minister.
Yet, I fear, there remains a handful of Kimunyas in both PNU and ODM! On this matter, indeed, there is not an iota of difference between ODM and PNU. Our unease, as Kenyans, remains acute.
[This post was first drafted and saved on Wednesday, July 9, 2008. It was updated and published on Friday, July 11]