Has Ababu Namwamba Lost the Fire or is it a Survival Strategy?


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Ababu Namwamba

He calls himself Generali (the General) and others call him Ababu Smart. And for quite a while, the Budalang’i Member of Parliament, Ababu Tawfiq Namwamba, displayed nothing but brilliance and eloquence. He articulated the issues that affect Kenyans in and outside Parliament impressively.

His courage was evident during his swearing in as MP for Budalang’i Constituency, after the 2007 controversial elections, in which he pledged allegiance to none other than Raila Amolo Odinga.

Many Kenyans believed that a new political star from the Mulembe nation was born. Ababu’s eloquence and charisma on the campaign trail and parliamentary floor endeared him to many, as did his paramilitary style attire, dark sunglasses and broad smile. He has been a crowd favourite, chanting ODM slogans of anti-corruption and government incompetence.

Despite all this, Namwamba’s absence in major Cord events of recent months, especially the anti-IEBC protests, the funeral of fellow Son of Mulembe and fierce anti-corruption activist Jacob Juma, has raised eyebrows among the ODM fraternity and his ardent supporters. This therefore begs the question, has Namwamba lost his political Mojo and passion as the secretary general of the largest opposition party in Kenya, ODM? Or has he merely retreated but not surrendered?

The position of secretary general has been a powerful one in post-independence Kenya political parties; we are reminded of the former Kanu SG Joseph Kamotho and former Ford Asili SG Martin Shikuku, among many others whose names are synonymous with the title. Of course we can’t forget that former Prime Minster Odinga served briefly as Kanu SG after the Kanu/NDP merger, before its disintegration in the run-up to the 1997 general election.

Party SGs serve as the mouthpiece by articulating both vision and ideology. It is the job of an opposition party SG to present the failures of government and offer solutions to the Kenyan people. Since we are a democracy, Namwamba is supposed to be the pillar of accountability, fairness and promotion of justice by questioning the government’s excesses and poor governance.

The ODM SG should be at the battlefront, defending his party position at every forum. Kenyans expected Namwamba not to be on the periphery but at the storm front, as democracy demands.

From the look of things, Namwamba appears to be a man under siege; caught between a rock and a hard place. Having fought off the label “Jubilee Mole”, his actions or inaction do not help but resuscitate the ugly tag. There seems to be a disconnect between ODM supporters’ expectations and the SG’s disposition.

He has been missing in the Cord protests against the IEBC in Nairobi only to appear in a low-key protest event in Kisii that sources say was actually a coincidence since

he had a meeting with Kisii Governor James Ongwae and Kibra MP Ken Okoth on the same day.

When Namwamba traversed the whole country alongside Turkana Governor Joseph Nanok and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, in what was called “Team Fresh”, Kenyans smelt a wave of freshness.

Even though Team Fresh’s hopes for a victory were soon disrupted by the “Men in Black.” It’s quite evident that Joho has displayed the courage and willingness to stand up for what is right for Kenyans. He led the by-election campaigns that saw ODM recapture the Malindi parliamentary seat. And Joho has led the largest anti-IEBC protests outside Nairobi.

Ababu, either stands to be counted as a brilliant leader of a major political party or sinks, drowns and is forgotten.

By Albert Obulukhu Musasia
Houston, Texas

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