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No country for old men: The Miguna Miguna Controversy in Kenya

You would be hard-pressed to find a country that deported its natural-born citizens, but Kenya always finds a way to defy the odds. Such is the story of lawyer and career politician Miguna Miguna



The dramatic deportation of lawyer Miguna Miguna has put Kenya at the receiving end of some serious international ridicule, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has said.

The ostensible reasons for Miguna’s first deportation were explained in a statement signed by a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, Mwenda Njoka. The government said it relied on the old Kenya Constitution, which was repealed in 2010, following the promulgation of the new Constitution, to deprive Miguna of his birthright. The former supreme law did not allow dual citizenship – which Miguna has.

However, anyone born in Kenya and whose parents belong to any of the 42 indigenous communities is a Kenyan by primordial and pre-constitutional right. They cannot cease to be so by an act of the state or operation of any law of a foreign country. In short, Miguna could not lawfully renounce his Kenyan citizenship and any such renouncement would be null and void, if it ever occurred.

The widely believed and more plausible reason is that Miguna was deported because of the challenge he posed to the government when he dared Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to arrest and charge him for administering the infamous oath to Raila Odinga.


This is the second time Miguna has been expelled from the country, despite being promised safe re-entry by the court. The Deputy President of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Harriet Chigai, said the LSK fraternity is saddened by the way in which state officers are undermining the law they swore to abide by.

“The circumstances are telling and this is a clear manifestation of a disregard for the law. The court orders were clear – for the state to facilitate the safe re-entry of Miguna – but unfortunately all the orders have been ignored,” she said.

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Chigai added that it is evident that despite the orders, the government was not prepared for the National Resistance Movement leader’s return.

“There cannot be justification for disobeying court orders. No entity has the capacity to determine which order to obey and this government must lead by example,” she said. “President Uhuru Kenyatta must make good the handshake [with NASA boss Raila Odinga] and give it meaning. It is embarrassing that a state that prides itself on human dignity can subject its own citizen to such treatment,” she added.


“We are calling on the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and the Ombudsman to take the matter seriously, move swiftly, conduct investigations and bring the perpetrators to book.”

A system of oppression

For the past year, Kenya’s political state has been messy at best and dangerous at worst. The country lost multitudes of people as the primaries fought over power. The violence affected some areas more than others in what some called a “blatant attempt at ethnic cleansing”. Kisumu County, for example, is considered a stronghold of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Kenyatta’s closest competitor for the presidency. Tensions increased in Kisumu in the period leading up to the Supreme Court ruling and some supporters did not care for the Supreme Court judgement.

“Not only did the police open fire on protesters in Kisumu on 30 March 2017, but it seems they tried to conceal the evidence and intimidate the victims,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “It looks like the Kisumu police tragically haven’t learned any lessons from the last time they opened fire on protesters.”

This is just one case study that reflects the lengths the government is prepared to go to to enforce and retain power. Another is the media blackout implemented during the time of the mock swearing in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as the “People’s President”. A ministerial order was given through the Communication Authority of Kenya to cut the link between television outlets and distributors – including government-owned Signet, whose officials were also directed to switch off the transmission links from the various television stations. According to data, TV stations are the most widely accessible source of information for most of Kenya’s households.


At the time, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the state had started investigations to determine if media houses committed any offences that informed the closure. Matiang’i claimed that some unnamed “elements” in the media helped the opposition coalition in the symbolic inauguration of Raila Odinga. Since then the Media Council of Kenya has reported an alarming rate at which police are assaulting journalists at work.

The Media Council of Kenya has reported an alarming rate at which police are assaulting journalists at work.

These are some of the extraordinary measures the government has resorted to to suppress resistance from both citizens and the press. However, senior officials are not immune to violations of civic and human rights either.

The case of Miguna Miguna

Self-declared National Resistance Movement General Miguna Miguna gave details to his 350 000 followers on his Facebook page of his deportation ordeal. According to the post, he was forcibly deported to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, after he was held in a toilet at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for three days.

Miguna, who has been admitted to hospital in Dubai, said that he was harassed, drugged and dragged to Dubai-bound flight EK 722.


“About 50 heavily armed thugs, led by the uniformed Somali policeman who had commanded them on Monday, violently broke into the toilet I had been detained incommunicado in at the Jomo Kenyatta [International] Airport, didn’t identify themselves, wrestled me to the ground, held onto [me] and sat on me as a group of four different thugs injected substances into both my soles, arms, hands, both sides of my ribs and basically all over my body until I passed out,” Miguna recalled.

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Miguna said he regained consciousness at 5:25am, after the plane had landed, and was ordered off the plane by three men, one of whom was wearing a yellow Air Emirates reflector jacket and introduced himself as Njihia. He informed Miguna that he had his documents.

“I explained to him (Njihia) that I wouldn’t go anywhere with him; that he didn’t have my valid Kenyan passport and that he was a criminal who had abducted, drugged and forcefully removed me from Kenya against my will and in violation of numerous court orders,” Miguna said in the statement, referring to the more than 10 court orders the state had disobeyed since he was arrested at his home in February and deported to Canada five days later.

Even with the threat of being sent to Canada, his adopted home, for a second time, Miguna is stoic and unmoved. He was unrepentant of the events he says might have led to his tribulations.


“I am innocent man,” he said. “My only crimes are that I swore Raila Odinga in as the People’s President on 30 January 2018; I head the National Revolutionary Movement (NRM) in order to bring electoral justice, end bad governance and accountability in governance; and we are determined to remove despots from their illegitimate positions of power.”