Lessons in Big Man politics

Chris Mullin spent two years as the UK’s Minister for Africa, a role that wasn’t quite as important as it sounds. Any decision worth making was carried out by Mullin’s superiors but he managed to travel a fair bit across the continent.

On one of those trips, to Kenya, he spends a day with Raila Odinga and gets his “first taste of Big Man politics”:

“All day we raced around in a convoy of gleaming Land Cruisers, mobbed by cheering crowds. At every stop a visitors’ book was produced. At first, I duly filled in my name and details across a single line. The Honourable Raila was unimpressed. ‘That’s not how you do it,’ he snorts, ‘you must fill the whole page.’ I flicked back through the book. Everyone else seemed to have made do with a single line, but that apparently is not how Big Men sign their nams.

“Honourable Raila takes the book and scrawls his signature across a full page. ‘There.’ He holds it out for me to admire. Try as I may, I cannot rise to the occasion. By the end of the day I am managing a mere three lines.”

From Mullin’s brilliant diaries, ‘A View from the Foothills’.

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One response to “Lessons in Big Man politics

  1. Chris, I totally agree with your assessment of Kenyan politics and look forward to the day we will eliminate tribal discrimination in the country. Maybe one day when all the big men are voted out, the beautiful country will stop begging for food ….and everything else…

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