Marsden Madoka – The suave and laid back firefighter

Unlike his predecessors and successors in the Ministry of Internal Security and Provincial Administration, Major (rtd) Marsden Madoka has always given the impression of being laid back, urbane, sagacious, diplomatic and non-controversial. These rare attributes were instrumental in helping him surmount multiple security and political road blocks at a time when the country was polarised between the ruling party KANU and the Opposition.

Although Madoka, a former Member of Parliament for Mwatate Constituency, lasted just five years in the Cabinet (1998-2002) in the Office of the President as Minister for Interior Security and later in Foreign Affairs, he was severely tested throughout his tenure.

Born on 15 March 1943, Madoka served in various capacities in the Ministry of Defence between 1963 and 1973 before joining the East African Breweries Limited where he rose to the position of Director of Personnel in 1994. He left the brewing industry in 1994 at the level of General Manager of new products. In 1997, he successfully contested the Mwatate parliamentary seat, marking a new season in his life; in January the following year he was appointed to the Cabinet during his first term in Parliament. Only a few political greenhorns were accorded this rare honour by President Daniel arap Moi.

“It had never crossed my mind that I would ever be a Cabinet Minister and when my family members informed me of the development on Thursday evening, I was dumbfounded,” said the former aide-de-camp for independence President Jomo Kenyatta. Madoka was 55 at the time of his Cabinet appointment.

The position was anything but a bed of roses. Banditry and cattle rustling in the restless northern parts of Kenya, politically-instigated ethnic clashes, industrial strikes, widespread police brutality and political and religious intolerance were rocking the country’s very foundation. Although ethnic clashes had scarred the Rift Valley region in 1991 and 1992, in 1998 they were widespread and deadly.

This forced Madoka to order a police inquiry into the clashes, which many expressed scepticism about. The Daily Nation, in its editorial of 12 February 1998, questioned the wisdom of such an inquiry. “Major Madoka did not… disclose the composition of the team, let alone its terms of reference. It is unclear, therefore, whether this is just a routine police inquiry or a Commission of Inquiry. If it is indeed the latter, then it must be the most secretive such probe team in Kenya’s history.”

The editorial continued, “It is most likely a police inquiry and we feel this would be most feeble and redundant, considering the task ahead… A full-fledged Judicial Commission of Inquiry supported by eminent persons from across the political divide should be constituted to look into this recurrent and extraordinarily far-flung violence. Political violence camouflaged as ethnic animosity must cease so that the wounds inflicted through this barbarism may heal.”

One would understand the predicament. It is the same police force that was being accused of brutality against elected leaders, in particular the Opposition. The force had become a law unto itself, widely believed to be involved in extra-judicial killings, violence and extortion.

In December 1998, Madoka ordered the topmost echelons of the police force to crack down on errant officers, stating in the Daily Nation of December 1998, “The Government does not condone the evils that have been perpetrated by a few police officers and those will be removed from the force.” He envisaged a force that was “… friendly and truly civil in its actions”.

That apart, he announced that the Government would no longer provide legal aid to careless officers. Those facing litigation for failing to apply the law correctly would have to fight it out on their own, he directed. “Incidents of misuse of firearms, abuse of office, general lack of discipline and association with criminals have eroded the police integrity and people have begun to doubt the law enforcement process,” he stated. “The police code on using firearms is very clear and must be followed to the letter and cases of misuse of the firearms will not be condoned.”

Earlier, Madoka had come under scrutiny in Parliament when he released crime rate statistics indicating that incidences of murder, rape, robbery, house-breaking and car theft were down. Opposition MPs Paul Muite and Njeru Ndwiga lashed out at the Minister for what they termed “misleading” figures. “People no longer report crimes like rape and robbery to police because they (police) are so ineffective that it is virtually useless,” said Ndwiga, the Manyatta Constituency Member from the Democratic Party (DP).

One-and-a-half years later, 92 MPs drawn from KANU and the opposition urged Moi to sack Madoka over the issue of police brutality. The MPs argued that the police force was being used by powerful personalities to intimidate the Opposition. Yet despite his warnings to errant officers little, if anything, changed. The Minister would in June 1999 come into the spotlight again when police stood by watching as hooligans beat up cleric Timothy Njoya outside Parliament, along Parliament Road, on Budget Day. It was Madoka who had ordered a road closure following demonstrations by political activists. He was hard pressed to explain to MPs the reason for the physical assault on the widely respected Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA).

Political intolerance would rise during this season because of the Moi succession battles that characterised the close of his term as Head of State. Madoka was constantly in the eye of the storm during this period of heightened political conflict. For instance, in July 1999, he was booed by MPs from both Government and Opposition sides of the House for accusing the Members of inciting the public to violence.

In a statement read to the House, Madoka warned that his officers would deal firmly with “indecent and unlawful conduct”. “If anybody acts in flagrant disregard of the law, police will have no option but to maintain law and order. Acts of incitement will not be condoned from any quarters,” he warned. But MPs responded, “Shame! Sit down!” This was after several incidents in which police had raided and used teargas at meetings organised by Opposition MPs.

During Madoka’s tenure a number of MPs, including James Orengo, were arrested under inexplicable circumstances.

The Minister was again caught in the cross-hairs of MPs when 40 KANU and Opposition MPs stormed out of Parliament to protest the disruption of a political rally at Mukuyuni by a mob allegedly bankrolled by the Minister for Planning and National Development, Gideon Ndambuki, in November 1999.

And he found himself yet again in the eye of the storm when police attacked and brutalised environmentalist Wangari Maathai as she protested the grabbing of Karura Forest by top politicians and close allies of Moi. Reports at the time indicated that authorities had quietly alienated the pristine forest on the outskirts of Nairobi without following due process of parliamentary approval.

Barely nine months into Madoka’s tenure, critics claimed that the Government was discriminating against Muslims following a move to deregister five Islam-allied non-government organisations (NGOs). He denied the accusations but went ahead to say that the Government was determined to outlaw even more NGOs if they failed to be transparent in their operations. He claimed that the decision to outlaw the NGOs was reached after it was established that their actions were in conflict with their stated objectives.

“Their activities were not for the interest of security, safety and welfare of Kenyans,” Madoka said in a statement dated 10 September 1998. He added that the Government “… has never targeted, harassed or persecuted Muslims. Deregistration of the five NGOs was purely done on security grounds.”

The previous month, six people had been killed and more than 15 others injured after police and a wedding party fought in the Masjid Anas al Malik Mosque in Diani in the Coast region. The fracas erupted when youths armed with machetes and knives attacked a police officer.

It was not just Muslims that Madoka had to calm. During his term in the Internal Security docket, a 64-year-old Catholic prelate, Father John Anthony Kaiser, was killed in mysterious circumstances. The August 2000 death of the outspoken cleric sparked so much outrage that the Kenya Episcopal Conference issued a statement virtually accusing the Government of the murder. Madoka was not amused.

“The Catholic bishops should stop their holier-than-thou attitude; we know what goes on in the Vatican,” he said in a two-page rejoinder to the bishops’ allegations on 18 September 2000. “If the bishops have any evidence implicating anyone they should report to the investigating officers instead of making unfounded malicious claims… No one has any moral right to start blaming the Government when there is no conclusive evidence to implicate anyone.”

Madoka did most of the firefighting for the Government. The politics of the day was dirty and the economy was not doing very well. Stung by high inflation, public servants, especially teachers, engaged in industrial action to demand increased pay. But loyalists like Madoka believed there were other reasons for their protests.

In August 1998 he stunned the country when he claimed that politicians paid by foreigners were bankrolling teachers to topple the Government. “Even if they bring down the Government, I assure the teachers that they will not be paid because there is no money,” he declared. “We agree that the Government succumbed to the teachers’ demands due to pressure but now there is no money to pay and we want the teachers to understand this.”

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) immediately censured him for the remarks. Clearly, they thought Madoka was playing politics with serious matters.

Yet despite his militant defence of a system that was highly criticised at home and abroad for oppressing freedoms and good governance, Madoka still stood out as one who also did good for the common person. Indeed, at a time when communities living around game sanctuaries were losing hope in the value of the country’s wildlife heritage, Madoka gave them something to smile about. Speaking in Parliament in December 1999, he announced plans to raise the compensation for those killed by wildlife from KES 30,000 to KES 1 million.

And on Worlds Aids Day in December 2000, he spelt out a much-needed new strategy to cope with the disease that was killing an estimated 600 Kenyans daily. It mentioned the provision of clinical and nursing care, counselling and emotional support, home care, social and spiritual support, occupational therapy, reducing the impact of the disease, monitoring its prevention, research into its causes and possible cures, and the role of donors, NGOs, religious groups and industry.

The following year, he signed into law a new anti-money laundering bill that would ensure imprisonment and forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth for those engaging in the crime, which would thenceforth be punishable by 14 years in jail under Section 49 of the Act that deals with proceeds from drug trafficking.

In November 2001 Madoka was moved to the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation docket. The Pan African News Agency wrote, “Marsden Madoka swopped a high-profile ministry for another equally high-powered one.”

While he was in charge of Internal Security, Madoka had handled the sensitive police department, often being called upon to clean up the Government’s image after the supposed upholders of the law broke the very law they were entrusted to enforce. He was now being deployed to take charge of the country’s external public relations as Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Daily Nation saw this move as “… a dramatic promotion for the KANU loyalist”.

During the handover Madoka told his predecessor, Chris Obure, “I believe we have done our best in trying to restore peace.” This, he said, was despite the “big challenges” experienced in trying to end tribal flare-ups and maintain peace in a country that had recorded a high influx of refugees and illegal firearms.

Hardly a year in office at Foreign Affairs, the Minister found himself embroiled in a war of words with British High Commissioner to Kenya Edward Clay, over the vacant position of Vice President.

“There is no Vice President more than a month after Prof George Saitoti left office. A vacancy in this office leaves a vacuum which may be worrying to citizens,” Clay had said. Madoka responded, “The British High Commissioner whom we would like to assume is a seasoned diplomat representing a friendly state should honour these obligations and respect the host State and its officials. In fact on many occasions, the Head of State himself has given diplomats private audience to air their concerns to him. Most diplomats respect this and do not resort to seeking publicity.”

Since independence, the Foreign Affairs docket has been very sensitive. But even before his appointment, Madoka had already been part of the intrigues that define this docket. Indeed, it was during his tenure in Internal Security that World Duty Free boss Ibrahim Ali was deported from Kenya in 1999 in questionable circumstances. The flamboyant businessman who owned the duty free shops complex at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport claimed that Government functionaries had seized it from him and was seeking USD 500 million in compensation. As soon as he set foot on Kenyan soil, he was hastily deported.

According to Madoka, Ali was a fugitive running from justice in Dubai. But Opposition MPs, in particular Kimilili MP Mukhisa Kituyi of the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy Kenya (FORD-K) party, claimed the businessman was being harassed for having spilt the beans on the KES 68 billion Goldenberg scandal involving fictitious export compensation, that he claimed Moi was linked to.

“MPs charged that Mr Ali was smuggled out of the country because he had ‘revealed’ the story behind the Goldenberg scam that has dogged the Government for nearly a decade,” the Daily Nation reported on 30 July 1999.

In January 2001, Madoka deported six Sudanese drug traffickers allegedly linked to Osama bin Laden. He also reintroduced visa requirements for a number of countries, sparking outrage from tour operators who feared the move could jeopardise the tourism industry. “The current fuss over the visa issue is being drummed up by local tour operators, not the tourists. What’s USD 20 or 40 in visa fees in a tour package for the tourists?” he asked.

Madoka was among the politicians mentioned as a potential VP when it seemed Moi was not keen to reappoint Saitoti. Others included Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Simeon Nyachae, Bonaya Godana and Katana Ngala.

An astute legislator, Madoka always wanted to be regarded a loyalist. During debate on a constitutional review in 1999, he shared the opinion that presidents should be immune from prosecution. “We must have a clause to protect our presidents from being charged when some people took advantage of them without their knowledge. They should not be prosecuted for mistakes they haven’t committed,” he said.

He won the 2002 election despite the heavy casualty it inflicted on KANU countrywide. Just before the 2007 election he left KANU for the Party of National Unity (PNU) that was hastily created for Mwai Kibaki’s re-election, and became one of its spokespersons. Earlier, he had briefly joined the original Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as a founding member before it split into ODM and ODM-Kenya. He changed parties three times in that year.

In 2008, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka appointed him to chair a 14-member committee formed to look into prison reforms. He served as Chairman of the Kenya Revenue Authority from 2012 to 2015 and more recently he was appointed to chair the Kenya Ports Authority Board.

Madoka will always have a dignified place in Kenya’s history. He gave the Agricultural Society of Kenya character while serving as chairman in 1993-1995, and for close to 18 years as head of the Amateur Boxing Association, he oversaw Kenya’s evolution into a powerhouse in the world of boxing.

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