In Summary
  • The office of the Gang of Five “digital terrorists” was a taxpayer-funded propaganda machine in the Deep State at the apex of power.
  • Mr Itumbi and his acolytes called civil society “evil society”, a dirty moniker. Mr Itumbi, a proto-fascist, pursued a putschist vendetta against civil society.

Few things give humans more gratuitous pleasure than the fall of a reviled villain.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the movies, or in real life. That’s why the recent public sacking — and humiliation in broad daylight — of the one-time Jubilee blue-eyed boy Dennis Itumbi was worth a champagne toast.

Mr Itumbi’s job description in the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) was Orwellian.

Straight out of 1984, the dystopian novel by English writer George Orwell, Mr Itumbi’s improbable title was Director of Digital Innovation and Diaspora Communications at the PSCU. Let that sink in.

The office of the Gang of Five “digital terrorists” was a taxpayer-funded propaganda machine in the Deep State at the apex of power.

They say you should be kind to people on your way up because you will surely meet them on your way down.

This is especially true if your ascent to the top — like Mr Itumbi’s — isn’t based on any discernible qualifications, or experience, except tweeting.

PROPAGANDA MACHINE

In any society based on meritocracy, Mr Itumbi, then barely literate and in his 20s, would’ve been lucky to get a government job as subordinate factotum in a remote, isolated, and windswept provincial outpost.

But no, the precocious fellow started right at the top, next to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta at State House. There was Mr Itumbi, wet behind the ears, perched at the pinnacle of the state. He quickly got power-drunk.

Let’s be fair to Mr Itumbi and his fellow “keyboard terrorists”. He was baptised with fire.

His remit at first was to delegitimise the International Criminal Court and discredit those who supported the crimes against humanity investigations into Mr Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto.

There were reports that he assembled a well-oiled army dubbed “36 Bloggers”, whose mandate was to personally destroy the ICC’s proponents.

No other sector of society sought justice for the victims of the 2007 near-genocidal post-election violence than Kenya’s civil society.

CIVIL SOCIETY ONSLAUGHT

I know because the Kenya Human Rights Commission, whose board I chair, was the leading voice for the victims.

Mr Itumbi and his acolytes called civil society “evil society”, a dirty moniker. Mr Itumbi, a proto-fascist, pursued a putschist vendetta against civil society.

His cartel used every state lever to destroy us, the “evil society”. The state carried out frivolous audits against NGOs.

There were several attempts to deregister the KHRC, among other NGOs. Fazul Mahamed, the disgraced former CEO of the NGO Co-ordination Board, led the charge against human rights NGOs on non-existent regulatory violations.

Eventually, the courts turned away the vexatious suits. Mr Itumbi and other state operatives attacked us personally at every turn.

He was vicious, determined, and acted without a conscience. Power went into the young man’s head.

He was untouchable and acted with impunity knowing that he sat in the inner sanctum of power.

RUTO'S SUPPORTER

His hubris finally caught up with him. Mr Itumbi apparently never got the memo.

He backed the wrong horse in the kerfuffle between Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta. As the saying goes, even a fool would’ve told him “you dance with the one who brung ya”.

In his case, that would’ve been Kamwana. But instead, Mr Itumbi jumped all in — feet first — into Mr Ruto’s anti-Kenyatta camp.

He left no ambiguity, or nuance, on whose side he was. Often, he would attack Mr Kenyatta on Twitter.

This wasn’t tomfoolery, but pure, unadulterated foolishness. He unequivocally decided his bread was buttered on Mr Ruto’s side.

It proved to be his undoing. No wonder he has been handed his own fanny. Two recent events highlight his ignominious fall from power.

First, he was implicated in the strange Hotel La Mada saga and the purported letter on Mr Ruto’s assassination.

ITUMBI KICKED OUT

The letter sounded like a page out of the book by the boy who cried wolf. Whoever forged it seemed to have aimed at winning Mr Ruto sympathy tears.

The unforced error in Mr Ruto’s camp backfired spectacularly. Mr Itumbi was held for several days in the cooler.

He was left holding the bag because Mr Ruto was helpless to protect his hireling. I suspect, as Mr Kenyatta often says, “simu yangu imezimwa” (my phone is off) — which means old buddies like Mr Itumbi can’t reach him to beg for relief.

The last episode was caught on live TV at the unveiling of the BBI at Bomas. There, Mr Itumbi was captured being frog-marched off the VIP dais just feet away from Mr Kenyatta.

I don’t think his feet even touched the floor as he was thrown out. Mr Ruto, Mr Itumbi’s godfather, sat forlornly alone on stage as Mr Kenyatta and ODM’s Raila Odinga savoured the proceedings amid mirthful banter and uproarious laughter.

I don’t take pleasure in the misfortunes of others, but Mr Itumbi’s ignominious end is poetic justice.

Editor’s note: Mr Itumbi, arraigned in July last year over the fake Ruto assassination letter, denies the charges.

Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua.