Wednesday, July 30, 2008



July 29, 2008
Standard Team
The Standard

The story of the big 2007 December General Election ODM victory party that never was can now be told five months after a peace deal pulled the country from the brink.

It’s a party whose planning was as elaborate and as discreet as it can get. And when it finally aborted, the impact was equally crushing for thousands of the Orange party supporters. They have spoken for the first time of the preparations.

The audacity of that hope and the deep disappointment with the outcome is captured in a beautifully framed portrait of party Raila Odinga clad in a blue suit and an orange tie with stripes of blue in two shades.

It’s captioned, "President Elect and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kenya". Instead, in a Grand Coalition arrangement brokered by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Raila became Kenya’s second Prime Minister, a post founding President Jomo Kenyatta scrapped after he briefly held it at independence.

As the plan for the "big inauguration" was being worked on, so was an international guest list. Yesterday, ODM Pentagon members declined to comment, but the director of elections, Ms Janet Ongera, talked of the carnival that never was.

Press conference

"I was posted to KICC to make arrangements for our presidential candidate to come and witness the announcement of the results," she says.

"My job was to confirm the results and make preparations for Raila to come. We even had a portrait declaring him president-elect ready. Preparations to have him address an international Press conference at KICC soon after being declared the winner were also complete."

To deal with a looming transport crisis, secondary school head teachers in Nyanza had been approached to provide buses to transport supporters to Nairobi for Raila’s inauguration at Uhuru Park.

In Turkana, a disappointed group of elders cancelled a busaa party at Kipsongo slums. One of them, Nakuleu Epus, later said, "ODM had promised to eliminate poverty, I’m not happy."

In West Pokot, residents spoke of plans of a big party, "because Raila would have made Rev Julius Murgor, the Kapenguria MP, Minister of Internal Security to deal with rampant insecurity in the area and along the Kenya/Uganda border.

"Celebrations to usher in Raila Odinga’s Government were set for Makutano Stadium. A big bull was to be speared in his honour," Mr Joseph Wero Makumbi, a resident, said.

Big dreams

Mr George Wesonga, a DJ at a popular restaurant in Kitale, spoke of ‘a big party for the youth in the town". The restaurant had also lined up a series of live performances.

"My constituents had made elaborate celebration plans. There were over 30 bulls. Each village had donated two animals," Mr Joshua Kutuny, the Cherangany MP, recalled.

For Kutuny, it would have been a dream come true, "as I was a candidate for the Agriculture ministry docket. He added: "During my campaigns, voters referred me to as Agriculture minister and Raila assured them that I was heading to Kilimo House when he addressed a campaign rally at Sibanga."

Mosop MP David Koech says the ECK announcement nipped celebrations in the bud. He spoke of families and even whole villages that were ready to start partying.

"Like the masses who supported ODM, I’m still confused over the outcome of the presidential poll," Coast Kaya elder-cum-ODM politician, Mzee Pekeshe Ndeje aka Simba Wanje, says. He had to abandon plans of colourful traditional ceremonies lined up for Raila.

"Here you are expecting your expectant wife to give birth and the baby does not come out alive, do you celebrate?" Bahari MP and Coast Parliamentary Group (CPG) chairman, Mr Benedict Gunda, said of the abortive victory party. "I will now channel all the resources I would have used to hold the victory party to the education of students from my constituency."

Sheikh Khamis Banda, who campaigned for the Orange party in the Kwale region, spoke of plans for a huge party in Ukunda. It was to cost about Sh300,000 and up to 350 Imams from the South Coast had been invited.

But Banda, now an ODM nominated councillor at the Kwale County Council, says they had to call off the celebrations as confusion reigned. He added, "This cruel turn of events broke the hearts of party supporters. Some were inconsolable."

No job

Mr Joseph Ombok, a Kisumu taxi driver, quit his job soon after voting. "I was too excited to work. I’m well educated and I was driving a taxi because of lack of employment. I knew I would get a good job because my father is Raila’s friend," the crestfallen jobseeker, recounted.

Mr Manyala Keya, the Lurambi MP and Assistant minister for Gender and Children Affairs, observed: "What is important is for us to understand that the half loaf the party received in the Coalition Government cannot satisfy all of us in ODM."

— Reports Ayub Savula, John Oywa, David Ohito, Jane Akinyi, Stephen Makabila, Osinde Obare, Patrick Beja and Isaiah Lucheli