Famous Veteran Kenyan Journalist, ODM Communications Chief And Former United Nations Media Director Tells Friends That He Feared For His Life…
Sometime today (Monday Feb 18th 2008) some top ODM officials will get a little surprised when the party communications chief Salim Lone fails to return from what was supposed to be a brief trip to New York hurriedly taken last week.
The truth is that Salim Lone has been telling close friends abroad that he fled for his life from Kenya after threats from PNU. However a few things do not add up. Why keep everything secret from the ODM top brass? And if it is true that he was threatened, why has he still not gone public with the story that he has told many close friends?
Actually Lone’s action has caused lots of anxiety amongst close analysts and observers of the Kenyan situation but before I tell you why, a brief introduction of Lone to those who may not know him is in order.
Salim Lone is a Kenyan by nationality, a veteran journalist, and former Director of the News and Media Division, Department of Public Information, of the United Nations. He has also been a rather prolific columnist for the Daily Nation and also writes regularly for The Guardian in the UK.
Salim Lone was director of the news and media division (1998-2003) during his twenty one year career at United Nations headquarters. His last assignment was as spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq immediately after the US-led 2003 war and occupation.
Lone was the founding editor of the pioneer woman’s monthly in Kenya, Viva in the 70s and was in fact forced to flee the country during the early Moi years fearing arrest for some of his political pieces in Viva a magazine. That was what led to his arrival in New York and a 21 year career at the UN. Still he is no stranger to harassment from Kenyan security agents in those terrible years of limited press freedom where numerous activists disappeared and brave writers disappeared without trace.
So the truth is that Lone does not scare easily. That is why analysts are ev en more worried and are wondering what exactly caused the ODM communications director to suddenly hop onto a plane and flee.
Admittedly, it seems clear that Lone no longer felt safe in Kenya. But what is this threat which ODM and Raila Odinga could NOT adequately protect him from? And why keep his intentions secret by telling ODM colleagues that he was away briefly and would be back by Monday (today)?
Clearly Lone knows something that many of us do not know yet. One theory is that he was made aware that President Kibaki is about to arrest and detain without trial, all top pentagon members and their close associates. (Yes, the constitution still empowers him to d just that). The information that Kumekucha has from impeccable sources is that the Kamikaze-like Kibaki administration has been agonizing for weeks now over this decision. Hardliners within the Kibaki camp favor such a move and have been pushing for it. Those who know the president are well aware of his weakness of avoiding to make decisions until it is too late. He delayed his exit from Kanu until the very last minute and even waited until Christmas day December 1991 to announce his defection from Kanu to form his own political party, DP (Democratic Party).
Again, during his first term as president, Kibaki delayed making a decision about the LDP rebels within the Narc coalition and as a result allowed the rebellion to spread and the popularity of the rebels to rise to the detriment of his own. And when he finally got rid of them, he did it by dissolving the entire government. He however got a rude shock when for the first time in Kenya’s history a number of politicians rejected their appointments to the cabinet. Only a last minute desperate deal with Ford Kenya ad Musikari Kombo as well as Charity Ngilu, saved his government.
True to form, those who know the president well are predicting that he is about to make a drastic belated step in restoring order and stamping his authority as the “duly elected president.” Never mind about the Anan talks.
Another theory to explain Salim Lone’s decision to flee Kenya so suddenly is the much-talked about second wave of violence, which the Kalenjin community has called the “coming war,” which is widely expected to beak out if and when the Anan talks fail to reach an agreeable conclusion. It is possible that Lone felt that it would be difficult to leave the country then and therefore opted to flee early before the human waste hits the fun, as some people say.
This is the kind f speculation that has kept most analysts on their toes, even as Lone sticks to his story that he was threatened by some sympathizers of PNU. Whatever anybody wants to believe, it is clear that something very major is about to happen in Kenya.
Read a recent article on Salim Lone, complete with pictures.
P.S. This is a rather humbling time for Kenya. About two years ago a brief discussion about Kenya in Washington between Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete and President Bush sparked off a diplomatic row with complaints coming from the Kenya foreign office. Yesterday a similar discussion took place in Dar-es-salaam between Bush and Kikwete and this time there wasn’t even a whimper from Kenya.
Read the full account of this meeting that ended with Bush leaving a grant of almost one billion US dollars to President Kikwete and Tanzania.