A million people behaved peacefully at Odinga’s rally!

Oct 11, 2007

THE Uhuru Park mammoth crowd was with Raila Odinga last Saturday. The Pentagon team was with him as was the galaxy of who was who that served in the Moi and Mwai Kibaki administrations. The sheer number of recent provincial commissioners, permanent secretaries, ambassadors and high commissioners was

By Jerry Okungu

An East African perspective

THE Uhuru Park mammoth crowd was with Raila Odinga last Saturday. The Pentagon team was with him as was the galaxy of who was who that served in the Moi and Mwai Kibaki administrations. The sheer number of recent provincial commissioners, permanent secretaries, ambassadors and high commissioners was mind-boggling.

If Kibaki packed the Nyayo Stadium a week before with 50,000 people, Odinga went out to multiply that number by 20-plus. It was no ordinary crowd that one often sees many times in a lifetime. It surpassed the crowd that declared Kibaki tosha on October 14, 2002. It outstripped the crowd that witnessed the Kibaki crowning on December 30, 2002; the crowd that threw mud at Daniel arap Moi.

When Odinga woke up on Sunday morning the following day, he must have felt extremely fine. The gods of his ancestors had smiled on him again. The God of Israel and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru must have equally blessed him. The gods of Simba Wanje of the Giriama people in the Coast, the Masai Elder, the late Prophet Elijah Masinde of the Abaluhyia, Allah the God of Prophet Mohammed and the Hindu god must have all been in agreement; that Raila Odinga it was; at least at the moment.

Three pollsters also published their verdicts on Sunday morning to announce that Raila Odinga was widening the lead despite PNU officially having launched its campaign a week earlier. What were the real highlights of the ODM presidential campaign launch? They were many and varied.

However, the defection of three government ministers at the same time was difficult to ignore. Charity Ngilu and her deputy, Dr. Kibuguchy in the ministry of Health forsook their cabinet posts for ODM. Another assistant minister, Mr Morotto also called it a day from the Ministry of Education in favour of the “Hummer” Party. For their action, there are bound to be major political realignments in Eastern Province where Ngilu comes from and West Pokot where Morotto comes from.

Individuals to be affected by these developments will definitely be Kalonzo Musyoka who shares the region with Ngilu and Kibaki’s votes in West Pokot. A great departure from the Kibaki rally before, it was the level of civility that was prevalent among speakers. The 30-plus speakers from all regions of Kenya, defectors, interest groups and new converts indicated that the majority of opinion leaders had come to a conclusion that this time, Raila Odinga deserves to lead, that this time, Kenyans deserve to be led by Raila Odinga.

Key speakers that included former cabinet ministers Chris Obure of Kisii Nyanza, Chris Okemo of Western Province, the Somali mayor of Migori, William Ruto, Najib Balala, Joseph Nyagah and Musalia Mudavadi of the Pentagon were specific, issue-oriented, less belligerent and advocated peace despite the killing of an innocent man in Western Province by a PNU activist’s bodyguards as the rally was in progress.

When Odinga finally rose to speak, he preached the gospel of change to better the lives of Kenya. He was of the opinion that Kibaki was a good man who had taken an examination to lead Kenyans but had failed the exam. Having failed the exam it was only fair that he did not continue sitting in the class. He should be allowed to go back home to deal with less taxing duties in his village.

Odinga also took the opportunity to prove to Kenyans that he was not the tribalist that his political opponents wanted to portray him to be. He publicly talked about his relations with Kikuyus, the tribe he is supposed to hate. He named Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia as his close friends that he bonded with when they were both detained by Moi in the late 1980s and 1990s during their struggle for the second liberation. He mentioned his first son Fidel who was recently married to a Kikuyu girl. He talked of his first daughter who was married to a Luhya.

On recent accusations that he was a leader who had failed to build toilets in his Kibera slums, Odinga turned the tables on the government and the Nairobi City council. He asked the crowd to tell him who should build houses, toilets, roads, markets, hospitals and schools. The crowd roared back that it was the government that should provide those services because it was the government that collected taxes for such services.

On Kibaki’s failure to meet the promises that he made to Kenyans, Odinga reminded the crowd that the tribalism Kibaki promised to fight at the same venue had today gone through the roof. Inflation had rocked with prices of basic commodities like sugar, maize meal, bread and bus fare had more than doubled under the Kibaki regime.

He rubbished the 6% growth as meaningless to ordinary Kenyans. He argued that economic growth without a human face was no growth at all. He promised the Police Force better terms of service to avoid extorting money from the public.

He promised to retain the Provincial Administration but they will have to be elected by the people. He promised to bring a new constitution and devolve the government in the first six months of his administration.

On a lighter note, the Orange Democratic Movement Party turned Nairobi City upside down that Saturday. The whole city was awash with orange colours. Dignitaries of all walks of life were attired in the most fashionable and most expensive linen cloth. It was a fashion parade for most of the people who decided to attend the Uhuru Park ODM bash.

Without knowing it, Odinga and ODM have created a thriving fashion industry in Kenya. The OMD products have become hot potato. Jobs and millionaires are being created by the orange mania gripping Kenya. Most of all, it was a marvel to see over a million people behaving so peacefully without a single policeman in sight!


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