'Mr. Double O,' Kenyan radical, rakes his government over coals
Nairobi — The placid surface of Kenya's politics is seldom ruffled, which is one reason why the British and Americans regard Kenya as one of the most stable countries in black Africa.
But there is a Kenyan who has a knack of blowing up embarrassing political storms. He is Oginga Odinga, known affectionately in Kenya as ''Mr. Double O.'' He was Kenya's first vice-president after self-government in 1963, and therefore no ordinary politician.
The now-elderly Mr. Odinga has created a new political storm within the free-enterprise establishment with radical statements against black African leaders and disguised critical references to Kenya at a meeting in London of the British Labour Party. He also met with the Socialist International.
An uproar caused by Mr. Odinga in the 1960s occurred when he clashed with the late President Jomo Kenyatta. Odinga was detained without trial on grounds of subversion, along with some of his friends and supporters in an opposition party.
Current President Daniel arap Moi succeeded Kenyatta in the presidency when Kenyatta passed on in 1978. The new president released Odinga and his friends, attempting to unify tribes and factions in Kenya. Mr. Odinga is a prominent leader of the fractious Luo community, the most numerous and powerful tribe after the Kikuyu, to which Kenyatta belonged.
Moi welcomed Odinga back into the Kenya African National Union (KANU) party (the only party) and gave him a minor job as head of the cotton industry.
Had the radical Odinga been tamed? Not at all. In a speech attacking ''landgrabbing politicians,'' Odinga's typically incautious tongue wound up criticizing the venerated Kenyatta as one of the landgrabbers. This was heresy to most Kenyans and the row generated could be heard all the way across the Atlantic in Washington. Once again Odinga found himself in trouble. He lost his job and appeared to sink almost without trace.
Now, following Odinga's London speech in which when he was alleged to have talked about forming a Socialist opposition party in Kenya, President Moi has expelled him from KANU.
Vice-President Mwai Kibaki said over the weekend that President Moi's decision to give Odinga the boot is ''final.'' Odinga, he said, rejected the ''philosophy, ideology, and strategies of the party.''
Much of the trouble was over Mr. Odinga's reported plan to form a new party. This was reported in London and got back to Kenya with the speed of light. Socialism in Kenya is anathema. Many think that country would be the least likely nation in Africa to go socialist.
Mr. Odinga has since denied planning a new party, but his main supporter, George Anyona, a radical former MP who was detained with Odinga in the 1970s, called last week for the establishment of just such a socialist party.
According to London journalists, Mr. Odinga hoped to get support for his challenge from Labour leaders in Britain.
He scarcely disguised his attacks on Kenyan government. He attacked multinational corporations, which, he said, controlled economic development and aimed to keep Africa permanently tied to the strings of metropolitan powers.
Odinga said that Western nations compromised the sovereignty of African states. He said they entered into military pacts and endangered the entire region - a reference to Kenya's agreement with the United States, granting naval and air facilities.
He told his British audience: ''For the common man, African governments are evidently more ruthless than the colonial regimes we struggled so hard against.''
Mr. Odinga said Kenya ''does not need political sycophancy around leadership.'' The nation, he said, ''needed leaders who were prepared to tell the people the truth and were genuinely concerned about the plight of the people.'' Critics, he said, find it ''easier to attack him than the bribery and corruption within their ranks.''