Miguna Miguna: Remembering father of Kenya devolution - The Star

Seven years ago, on a Sunday morning, Dr Crispin Odhiambo Mbai was assassinated in Nairobi by retrogressive political forces that hated change. He was murdered in cold blood for doing his job well.

With a brilliant smile that permanently exposed bright cotton white teeth between dimpled cheeks, Dr Mbai was a beautiful man. He had an exceptionally sharp mind and a tender heart. At the time of his death, Dr Mbai was teaching politics at the University of Nairobi and chairing the "devolution group" at the Constitutional Review Conference at Bomas.

Dr Mbai was more than a beautiful man, husband and father. Odhiambo wuod Mbai's beauty was more profound than the physical one; it was intellectual, spiritual and humane. He was a full and complete human being - gingerly crafted by God, with an agile mind, a sense of fairness, originality, objectivity and vivacious commitment of purpose, especially on important matters affecting his fellow human beings. Who killed Mbai and why?

Someone senselessly killed him on that bright Sunday morning on September 14,2003. A fellow Kenyan brutalised his body and thought that by so doing Dr Mbai's contributions to humanity would be permanently erased. The killers attempted to destroy his legacy and the fruits of his labour. But they failed.

Sadly, Dr Mbai's killers are still free, roaming our streets, cities and villages. Why hasn't the government apprehended the perpetrators of this cowardly and grisly crime?

Dr Mbai was my friend. We met at the University of Toronto in September 1988, when he was completing his PhD in political science and I was completing a degree programme that I had started at the University of Nairobi but could not finish because some busybodies at Nyayo House had other ideas about me. He gave me hope and inspiration when nearly everyone was resigning to the ravages of dictatorship and the madness of the Big Man syndrome in Kenya.

Why did they rob us of Dr Mbai?

I have written and spoken with senior government officials in this coalition government — asking, beseeching and coaxing them to assist in unravelling what has now turned into a mystery murder case.

First, I was reassured by prominent government officials that diligent efforts were being made to follow all the leads and that sooner or later the culprits would be brought to book. That has not happened.

On other occasions, my pestering emails and promptings have been met by either dead silence or blank but otherwise sympathetic expressions. Why has it taken this long to bring the murderers to book?

Once, a minister in the first Kibaki government said to me, nonchalantly, that "maybe we should hire you to handle this case". At first, I thought the man was simply expressing exasperation at my unrelenting quiet campaign to see every available stone turned in order to resolve this case.

Then it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps the minister saw me as naive and wanted to sound sarcastic; demonstrating how ignorant I might have been about the weighty matters of state secrets that he must have been dealing with. I was, of course, never hired to pursue Mbai's killers.

Since his murder, my mind has never resigned. Why has this government been lukewarm in pursuing the trails of the suspected murderers, some of whom were cited in Tanzania by a diligent investigative journalist of the Standard more than five years ago?

Dr Mbai was the principal architect of devolution in Kenya's vocabulary. He made the most significant single contribution in explaining this concept to politicians, intellectuals and ordinary citizens alike.

He was responsible, almost single-handedly, for ensuring that Bomas delegates fully understood and appreciated how significant devolution would be for their future collective success and development as a united people. Who felt threatened by Dr Mbai's contributions?

He believed that Kenyans deserve the space, peace and environment within which they can collectively work to achieve their true identities and national goals as a united and indivisible people.

If we cherish the ideals for which Dr Mbai paid the ultimate price, then we must successfully conclude the constitution making process this August in a peaceful manner. Our collective attention should be directed at expressing our sovereignty as a people and in bringing into life our collective vision of a caring, humane, equal and just society.

Dr Mbai believed in true and fundamental devolution of government and resources; not chimeras. In all his contributions at Bomas, he asserted the need for Kenyans to determine how much they were taxed, how their taxes were used and where.

In essence, he stood and died for the empowerment of all Kenyans, irrespective of their differences. Could this have been the real threat he posed? Can our leaders please explain why justice has not been done in this case?

The writer is a barrister and solidtor in Canada; an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and adviser of the Prime Minister on coalition affairs.

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