By SARAH ELDERKIN
IT IS not so much that I only rarely agree with the government, more something that I believe has never happened before. But in the ongoing Miguna Miguna passport case, the government has my sympathies.
I believe that Miguna is completely in the wrong according to the law, as well as under international citizenship conventions. And I believe both he and his lawyers know this very well. The latter probably now find themselves between a rock and a very hard place.
First, it is necessary to understand what Miguna Miguna is. I have worked with him in the past. He can be charming and soft-spoken when he wants to be, and at first I admired his apparent intelligence.
But nothing about Miguna’s demeanour – charming or furious – is accidental. Everything with Miguna is an act. And he will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Lying, cheating and betrayal are just the tip of it.
Miguna is a prime practitioner of the Machiavellian principle of ‘the end justifies the means’ – in other words, it does not matter what you do to achieve your ambition. Simply achieving that ambition justifies whatever you might have done to get there, however wrong, illegal or evil it was.
It is significant to note that, wherever Miguna has been in his life, there have been major issues that have brought his behaviour into question – from his troubled student days, through his days as a barrister in Canada, where he was charged with sexual assault on vulnerable young women seeking his help over – ironically – immigration issues, to his publication of a book about Raila Odinga that is replete with lies – no event unexploited for exaggeration, aspersion, detraction, distortion, fiction, hyperbole, myth and propaganda.
And that is not to mention his violent flip-flopping behind one leading politician after another – at one time with ODM and violently against the government, then violently against ODM and violently for Jubilee, back violently to ODM and Nasa and violently against Jubilee, and now violently against everyone. We try to keep up.
Miguna appeared on the main political scene in Kenya rather suddenly, just before the 2007 general election, after many years in Canada. He tagged on to Odinga and loudly praised him as some kind of god – whom he “loved”, nothing less.
After Odinga became prime minister, Miguna was given a room at the PM’s office. Miguna grandly and unilaterally put on the door a notice with his name and the designation he had dreamed up for himself: ‘Permanent Secretary’. It was a joke – but not to Miguna.
He thought he deserved a “significant position”, for which he felt he was “impeccably qualified” – according to his book Peeling Back The Mask, written after Miguna fell out with Odinga after what he considered his unique talents were not adequately appreciated.
“Why didn’t [Odinga] consider my candidature for the attorney-general, director of public prosecutions, anti-corruption commission or any of the newly established constitutional implementation organs?” he asks in the book.
He goes on to laud his own “credentials, training, tested skills, integrity, passion and commitment” as superior to the characteristics of other people appointed by the PM. “I strongly believe that he had realised that I ranked higher than Ruto and Uhuru,” he adds.
Lately, Miguna has a new position he has awarded himself: he is ‘a general’ in the ‘national resistance movement’. As far as we know, this is a self-declared general without soldiers, despite Miguna’s boast that he will “rally my boys” and “bring five million men and women to the streets of Nairobi”. We wait to see that.
Meanwhile, Miguna found himself with passport woes. They began when he acquired Canadian citizenship – and because I am in a similar situation (in reverse), I well know what is required when it comes to acquiring, renouncing and redeeming citizenship.
Like Miguna, I changed my citizenship. That was in 1975, when I became a Kenya citizen. I was required to go the British High Commission in Nairobi to renounce my British citizenship, because Kenyan law at the time did not allow dual citizenship.
My British passport was cancelled and I have been a Kenya citizen ever since. Though British-born, I do not hold a British passport. I am not automatically entitled to one, and if I wanted one, I would have to apply using the usual UK immigration department channels, just like anyone else trying to get British citizenship.
Miguna’s case is no different. He became a Canadian citizen at a time when Kenya did not allow dual citizenship. International immigration conventions – and there is no way the Canadian authorities would have ignored these – would have required him to renounce his Kenyan citizenship.
(If not, why has he not got a legal Kenyan passport, which he has held and renewed ever since? The answer is simple. He is not entitled to one, and he won’t get one unless he applies anew in the prescribed manner.)
Citizenship is a birthright, but it is not a lifetime right. If you decide to change your citizenship part-way through your life, shauri yako. You have made a choice to surrender something you had at birth.
This is true for everyone in the same position – including the 3,000 or so people, formerly Kenya citizens who had taken citizenship elsewhere, who since the introduction of dual citizenship in the 2010 Constitution have applied to the Kenya government to reinstate their Kenyan citizenship.
They have complied with the rules. Miguna has failed to follow suit. So what makes him different? Only his inflated, distorted opinion of himself, which he feels puts him above the law.
He is not above the law, and after Miguna ‘officiated’ at Odinga’s swearing-in as the ‘People’s President’ back in February, the government used its perfectly legal powers to deport a loud-mouthed Canadian citizen they considered a nuisance.
And there are no two ways about it. Whether you agree with it or not, the government has these powers, just like governments in other countries.
In apparent keeping with his belief that the law doesn’t apply to him, Miguna, some time before the 2010 Constitution was enacted, acquired a Kenyan passport and ID card. Both were illegal. He was not entitled to either under the law of the time, and well he knew it.
It has been suggested that the issuance of these documents was facilitated by Otieno Kajwang, who from 2008 was minister of state for immigration and registration of persons.
Kajwang, another charming and amusing fellow, died in 2014. Since his death, he has, in Kenyan tradition, been viewed as nothing less than a saint.
But there are no saints in Kenyan politics, and Kajwang certainly was not one. He had been struck off the Law Society of Kenya’s advocates roll no less than three times for misconduct, including embezzling a client’s money. The last time he was struck off was in 2008, and he never applied for reinstatement.
Kajwang’s history at the very least casts a cloud of suspicion over his role in the issuance of any passport to Miguna before 2010.
After his deportation in February this year, Miguna, in his usual excitable, bombastic, angry, self-seeking way, went around like the Ancient Mariner (who in a poem by 18th Century English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge is compelled to tell his tale of woe wherever he goes) making vitriolic speeches against …. well, everyone, really.
And people will always want to listen to Miguna because his demeanour offers entertainment. He is a buffoon. People laugh at him, just as they did at Idi Amin, despite his murderous ways. Miguna getting apoplectic, ranting and raving and boasting, will always draw a crowd. (Unfortunately for him, this does not translate into electoral popularity. He gained only a little over half-a-per-cent of the vote when he stood for election as Nairobi governor.)
But Miguna loves the attention his histrionic behaviour attracts. It affirms for him his belief that he really is something special.
So what better a plan than to try to illegally force his way into Kenya, make himself a victim with as much noise and violent behaviour as he could muster, and increase what he sees as his standing and popularity among the electorate?
Accordingly, Miguna flew into Nairobi airport on March 26, well knowing what was ahead of him, and what he had planned. He knew that any Kenyan passport he had was issued illegally, likewise any Kenyan ID card.
At passport control, Miguna demanded to be admitted as a Kenya citizen, which he claimed was his birthright. As stated above, a birthright does not last a lifetime if you make alternative arrangements. Miguna is supposed to be a lawyer, a barrister no less, and one who, if somewhat dubiously, has worked on immigration cases in Canada. He knows very well what the law says regarding his own situation.
But by emotionally shouting and repeating the ‘birthright’ mantra, he knew he could convince folk who didn’t know any better that he was being treated unfairly.
Miguna is a hefty, threatening, lump of a fellow who has no compunction about throwing himself around physically. Pictures of him being restrained at the airport by several people must be absolute nectar to his soul. Never mind that the scene was all concocted and set up by Miguna on false premises. As far as he was concerned, he was appearing a victim of the state and, he hoped, making himself a hero of the people.
And he had no compunction about lying. He said he didn’t have his Canadian passport. The document was reported to have been lost. His lawyer Cliff Ombeta said it had been “snatched” by the Kenyan authorities.
All this was untrue. Miguna had his Canadian passport all along, as he later himself admitted. But producing it and going about things correctly would have been too easy and would not have brought him the attention he wanted.
He offered his illegal Kenyan ID in place of his passport. How ridiculous was that? There are no national IDs in Britain and people normally use the detailed driving licence for purposes of identification. Imagine how it would be if I, for example, produced my British driving licence to get into the UK. After extensive interrogation, I would be bundled on to the next plane back to Kenya.
Only one thing allows you into a country: a valid passport, with visa if necessary (in exceptional cases, other legally issued travel documents). The clue is in the name – ‘pass port’. Full stop.
As the Nairobi airport stand-off continued, the courts got involved, and their contribution only added to the sorry mess. They demanded the production of Miguna in court. But how could this happen when Miguna had no valid documents to enter the country?
The courts erred in law, something that is far from unknown. Chief Justice David Maraga himself, commenting this week on the government’s vitriol against the judiciary over the Miguna issue, admitted that the courts “could make mistakes in … orders”. He went on to say that if mistakes were made, there should be an appeal.
That is no doubt very true in theory, but there was an ongoing situation the government was dealing with at the airport, however chaotically. The judges had made an order that could not logically be complied with – in fact, complying with it would actually circumvent and break the law – and how long would filing an appeal take?
As far as I can see, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i acted within the law and according to the law in refusing Miguna entry to Kenya.
After the court orders, Matiang’i’s retaliatory description of some judges as “evil” was unnecessary and completely unworthy of him (especially when the government has acted in contempt of court in many matters, behaviour which is in itself contemptible and which has had a knock-on effect in increasing people’s distrust of the government).
But in the matter of Miguna and his immigration status, Matiang’i is correct. You cannot allow entry into Kenya of a foreign citizen without the appropriate documents – whether he is an arrogant, obstreperous, strutting peacock of a boastful loudmouth on his own personal ego trip or not.
In the final chapter of his book, Miguna lauds himself and his so-called integrity and says, “My word is my bond.”
Some word. Some bond. Miguna has brutally violated any notions of honesty and integrity. He has been complicit in obtaining illegal documents. He has caused unnecessary headache for Kenya, in pursuit of a narcissistic personal goal. He has shouted endlessly about his unique commitment to justice and integrity and the rule of law. And yet when it has come down to it, Miguna has lied and cheated and attempted to circumvent the law with false documents for his own ends. His words and sanctimonious declarations are purely for effect.
The government has produced all the documents relating to Miguna’s citizenship saga (If only they had done the same in the Eurobond saga … but there, that is a different story) and it is plain to see what has happened, how Miguna has behaved, and what kind of conscience-free activities he has engaged in.
While it is clear that Miguna’s antics can fool some of the people, some of the time, if they continue to be taken in by this swaggering, self-important, irrational, unstable and ultimately dangerous character, they have only themselves to blame for the consequences – including seeing their country rendered an international laughing stock.