Arab Spring Uprising Influenced by Kenya’s Orange Movement – Former Kenya Deputy PM.

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This interview was conducted 10 years ago in Washington DC

Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Wycliffe Mudavadi is Kenya’s former Vice-President under President Daniel arap Moi. He has been involved in ruling the country for the past 22 years even though he just turned 51. He is credited as being a vanguard of the Orange Democratic Movement, ODM, the grassroots uprising which sprouted out of the passions surrounding Kenya’s 2005 constitutional referendum. Currently, he also serves as Kenya’s Minister of Local Government. The Deputy PM was in town last week and I caught up with him in Washington DC for an interview. Following are excerpts:

NSA:                      How did the Orange Movement start?
Mudavadi:           The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) started in Nairobi as a breakaway group from a national alliance that took over immediately after President Moi’s retirement. Unfortunately, there were disagreements among the factions. But despite that, likeminded groups got together and we decided to establish a movement with a strong ideology as defender of the rights of the people. That is ODM. It then gathered strength when we had the first referendum on our constitution in 2005. That was the turning point. The public wanted an all-embracing party, a party of unity. They wanted unity among the leadership. We mobilized for democracy, and then we turned it into a political party. ODM is therefore the backbone of democratization in Kenya. The movement has brought a lot of vibrancy to the democratic process.

NSA:                      Do you see any connection between ODM and the Arab Spring?
Mudavadi:           I believe there is some connection. You can look at the development of new technology and its effect on communication these days. No country is an island anymore. I think the events that took place in Kenya – where we had a president who had been in power for so long and was successfully let go without violence – got a lot of publicity worldwide. I won’t be surprised if our process and the publicity it received struck the right chord with our neighbors. The Orange Movement more than likely influenced the so-called Arab Spring uprisings.

NSA:                      Are there any similarities between ODM and the Occupy Movement from an organizational standpoint?
Mudavadi:           Well, there may not be exact similarities in the sense that the Occupy movement is a different and separate kind of popular expression. The Orange Movement was principally about democratization and respect for the basic rights of the ordinary person. The Occupy movement seems to revolve more around an economic expression in terms of what the grievances and messages are about. Their actions and messages do not necessarily say they are dissatisfied with the political process. It may suggest that they are dissatisfied with the management of the economy by the big corporate entities which they may feel are not sensitive enough to their concerns.

NSA:                      As movements go, do you have any advice for the Occupy Movement?
Mudavadi:           First, they seem to have organized themselves very efficiently, but they need to find a way of crafting their message more effectively and a way of communicating it in terms that everyone understands. There’s the feeling that the element of a coherent message is not being communicated. There are too many people professing different messages. Secondly, they have not come out clearly about what they are proposing as a solution to what they consider to be the problem. If this continues, people may not take them too seriously.

Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Wycliffe Mudavadi

NSA:                      In light of the collapsing economy of the European Common Market, do you still think the East African Community with the common market idea is a viable one?
Mudavadi:           I think the East African Community is still very viable. I don’t think the tribulation of the Eurozone should discourage emerging markets. SADC, ECOWAS, EAC all have a reason to be. It makes sense to harmonize neighboring economies and governance in regions; after all, a wider market is always better for the citizens. There are lessons to learn from Europe though: one lesson to learn from the European problems is that, as we build up, we have to be very careful with the standard of performance benchmarks that we accept as a community; we need to have a clear understanding what the debt ratio should be, and so forth. The other lesson is that the system must be made to work, and it must be seen to be working so that nobody rides on its back as Greece did. In the end, after all, good governance demands that we establish a system that works. This will support our redevelopment efforts.

NSA:                      Talking about redevelopment efforts, is there a role for the African Diaspora to play in Africa?
Mudavadi:           Well, the African Diaspora as one group commands a huge economy. Combined together, Africans in the Diaspora can change things on the ground. We need them to involve themselves in influencing policies that introduce new approaches to development. They can come as consultants, investors, tourists, students…We encourage and welcome them to take part in the development effort. Already we have enshrined in the mother law of Kenya the mechanism of dual citizenship. Spouses and offspring of Kenya-born citizens are automatically entitled to citizenship. There are paths toward citizenship and other mechanisms already enacted that Africans in the Diaspora can follow in that respect.

NSA:                      Do you think Gadhafi deserved to be removed by NATO?
Mudavadi:           From a personal point of view, I think Gadhafi had taken his people for granted for far too long. It is ridiculous that he talked about Libya like it was the lawn in his backyard. Toward the end, he was talking about how he would crash his own people and all. He and his children fully controlled the entire country. He had no respect for the people. Basically, he was a bad example of what a leader should be. He should have seen the signs and left earlier as a response to and respect for the wishes of the people. I have no sympathy for him. In this particular case, he gave NATO a reason to do what they did when he turned on his own people. I think it is very hard to find a lasting legacy for Gadhafi. He talked about the African Union, but one can only imagine what he would do if he was the head of such a union. Would he have respected the law? Is this the way he would have treated the citizens? For other African leaders, this should let them know that one has to respect human rights, uphold good governance, and embrace democracy. That said, how the whole thing was handled, especially after he was captured, was not right. Two wrongs do not make a right. You can’t replace one form of extremism with another.

NSA:                      Is this a message for Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe?
Mudavadi:           It will do him a lot of good if this time around he was to give way for the good of his country.

NSA:                      What do you see as the reason for and future of the African Union?
Mudavadi:           The African Union is still very important. There are a lot of regional, continental and global issues which have to be dealt with in a unified manner. An example is Somalia: the interventions in trying to bring stability there is really an A.U. matter. We need to have the African Union because there are bound to be challenges in future. When these challenges arise in, say, la Cote d’Ivoire, or Central Africa and other countries, the much needed stability depends on solutions brought from a unified effort.

Mudavadi speaks to Kenyans at Zayed Hall


Posted 3rd January 2012 by Nana S. Achampong

Location: Washington, DC, USA

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