A former Toronto lawyer is causing a stir in his native Kenya after releasing a political memoir heavily critical of the country’s prime minister.
Miguna Miguna spent four years as a key adviser to Prime Minister Raila Odinga before the pair fell out last year. In his recently released book, Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya, Miguna turns on his former boss, alleging he hasn’t lived up to his reformist billing, and implicating his party, the Orange Democratic Movement, in the violence that marred the 2007 presidential election, which Odinga narrowly lost. A subsequent power sharing agreement between the two rival candidates saw Odinga handed the prime minister’s job.
“He has always billed himself as a reformer, as an agent of change, as somebody who stands against corruption, tribalism, and nepotism. But here, I am saying he is all these things he says he is not, because I was there and he practised all these things,” Miguna tells Legal Feeds.
He’s back in Canada for a family holiday, and to promote his book to the large ex-pat Kenyan community in southwestern Ontario.
Miguna fled Kenya in the late 1980s, landing in Canada as a refugee. After his graduation from Osgoode Hall Law School, he spent more than a decade in private practice in Toronto. In 2007, he decided to return to his homeland to get involved with the burgeoning ODM.
“At some point you realize you can make a more significant impact at home than you can here,” he says. “It would have been wrong for me to just have stopped and said I’m going to enjoy my life here, because I’m a lawyer and I have everything, and to forget about Kenya.”
Although he was unsuccessful in his own attempt to get elected to Kenya’s parliament, Miguna quickly established himself as part of Odinga’s advisory team. But the relationship turned sour, and in August 2011, he was suspended from his post, and later turned down an offer of reinstatement.
Now Miguna’s book is threatening to derail Odinga’s second run at the presidency, with the poll due early in 2013. Some Odinga supporters have reportedly burned effigies of Miguna, while rival demonstrations have been held to support him.
“If I wrote a book that had no substance, the reaction would not have been so vicious, so I’m glad, because it is out of that, that positive transformations in society happen,” says Miguna, who also claims to have received death threats.
But he insists he will return to the country next month, and refuses to rule taking a run at the presidency himself.
“It’s not something I’ve thought about. I will go back, launch my book county by county, and gauge the country. I will interact with colleagues, we will continue the struggle, and let the chips fall where they may,” he says.
Miguna was no stranger to controversy during his time in Canada, clashing frequently with the Toronto Police during his time in practice. In 2000, he sued the Toronto Police Association for malicious prosecution after it complained to the Law Society of Upper Canada about remarks he made to the media while representing the family of a man shot dead by the Toronto Police Service’s Emergency Task Force. The law society declined to launch an investigation, finding no concern with Miguna’s comments.
In 2004, following his acquittal from four counts of sexual assault, Miguna sued the Toronto Police and the Crown attorneys who prosecuted him for malicious prosecution. The trial judge had found there were contradictions in the testimony of the two complainants, and was suspicious that they had a common motive to implicate Miguna. He also found the police investigation fell short in some respects.
Miguna was twice given permission to continue with his $17.5-million claim by the Court of Appeal for Ontario after lower courts had struck his claim. In 2008, the Court of Appeal ordered (http://canlii.ca/en/on/onca/doc/2008/2008onca799/2008onca799.html) the defendants to deliver statements of defence, but by that time, Miguna was out of the country, and the case has become dormant.
“I did not have the time to pursue them. My position is that I already made my point,” Miguna says. “I am not interested in reliving the past.”
Update: July 26, 2012: Changes made to clarify Miguna not fired from position with Odinga.