By David Ohito and Isaac Ongiri
Prime Minister Raila Odinga rekindled memories of the bungled December presidential election, his party’s failed stab at the presidency, and the bitter memories of post-election violence.
It was the day Raila, who is grappling with dissent from a section of his party that feels he has gotten too involved in Government affairs, forsook his supporters, and got too close to President Kibaki, appeared to stoke the embers of the Orange wave as witnessed in rallies during the campaigns.
Declaring again his party’s victory was stolen, the PM vowed Orange Democratic Movement would stand, but again had to grapple with complaints by the public over the rising cost of maize meal.
As if in testimony to how things have changed, with Raila at the podium was Justice Minister and Narc-Kenya chairman Martha Karua, who also has her eyes on post-Kibaki presidency. Last year she was one of Kibaki’s defenders, but though standing out in the colours of her party, she spoke kindly of Raila, saying he was her senior in government.
Speaking in retrospective, Raila recalled the confusion and tension that gripped the country at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, as police shoved them around and live coverage banned.
The PM dropped the guard he has maintained, layered in silence, since the signing of the power-sharing deal with President Kibaki in February, and appeared to marshal his party around the Orange’s Maisha Bora dream, even as it remains in the Coalition Government.
The PM, who was tear-gassed at a funeral service for a dozen Kibera youths mowed down by police live bullets in January, yesterday cast a different picture in the heartland of his constituency as he strode in for a thanksgiving ceremony.
"You gave me the ball, I dribbled and at the goal mouth, I saw the goalkeeper was dosing. I shot it right through, but (Electoral Commission Chairman Samuel (Kivuitu) and his linesmen said I was offside."
He then told them the Cabinet had initiated the process that would finish off the ECK, as is currently constituted under Kivuitu, as well as the first steps to a new constitution.
Ringed by four members of ODM Pentagon members, at a time the party is grappling with raging undercurrents over the Waki Report, Raila said those killed in the skirmishes in Kibera were defending themselves.
"They had guns and our youths had stones, blood was pouring and I decided to settle for half a loaf,’’ said the PM, who touched off a sombre mood in a ceremony at the Joseph Kang’ethe grounds. He first asked the audience to stand for a minute of silence in memory of those killed in post-election violence.
He spoke of how his constituents were killed with machetes by an organised gang, which he claimed moved from door to door under police escort.
He recounted the killing of a 12 and 14-year-old children and a woman. He explained the youths who uprooted the railway line that cuts through Kibera were angry and helpless. "Mlisema kama ni mbaya ni mbaya (come what may), and decided to defend yourselves, the world was shocked and (Dr Kofi) Annan and his colleagues were sent to us."
He asked his constituents what their rallying cry was, and they responded: "No Raila, no peace!" It was a contrast to the initial view the PM gave on why the Waki Report must be implemented, putting him on a collision cause with Agriculture Minister William Ruto. Ruto has since changed his mind, to support the implementation of the Waki Report.
ODM feted Raila against the backdrop of simmering differences over the Waki Report, the Mau Forest, and scramble for top party position.
"ODM is organised, strong and united. We have weathered tough times and we will soldier on," Raila told guests at a VIP luncheon earlier at the Bomas of Kenya.
"The Pentagon is here. We want to send a strong message that ODM is strong and looking forward. We cannot be detracted," Raila said, as he thanked guests.
But Pentagon members Charity Ngilu and Najib Balala were absent. "We are in one ODM. We are focused. For now we are not interested in the 2012 General Election," said Ruto.
"It is not true that I held secret meetings with President Kibaki over the Waki Report. The Waki Report is discussed in bars, churches, bus stations, markets and every public place. Why should I hide? That is a fictitious report," Ruto added, as he admonished the local newspaper that carried the story, yesterday.
Talking about power sharing, Raila recounted how it has been a difficult game accepting half a loaf (half the Government), which had caused discord among supporters.
"We went to the polls knowing we would win and take it all. But as you know we were messed up by the referees of the election – the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK)," Raila said.
"In Langa’ta many polling stations lacked voting records, at KICC there was a blackout, and TV stations were switched off," Raila recalled, as he accused ECK of denying ODM its victory.
In an apparent dissatisfaction with the electoral, process he said the commissioners must quit. "We promised jobs, a new constitution, new land laws, and many more. We are discussing these and many will be implemented," Raila assured his constituents.
It was an emotional re-union with his constituents who stood with him even as riots took centre stage in Kibera in January.
Guns and machetes
"Police killed many people here in Kibera. One known officer shot and killed a child, women and provoked the youths who reacted by uprooting the railway line. They were protesting for their rights," Raila said.
"There was bloodshed. Attackers came with guns and machetes but my people were only armed with stones," Raila said.
"In ODM we promised change but when we formed coalition we blended our policies and manifestoes. Yetu ilikuwa ni Kazi ianze na ya PNU Kazi iendelee." (We wanted to begin reforms, but they stood for status quo).
Regional Development Minister Fred Gumo said ODM has a voice in the coalition through the PM. But Lands Minister James Orengo cautioned the coalition was well, save for interference by Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, who he accused driving a wedge between Raila and President Kibaki.
ODM ministers put their coalition colleagues on notice warning that they had no business governing the country if they would not stop the soaring food prices and entrench reforms.
The guests included the Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende, and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi. Ministers Joe Nyaga, Mohammed Elmi, Paul Otuoma, Martha Karua, Anyang’ Nyong’o, Chris Obure, and Assistant Ministers Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and Joseph Nkaissery and several MPs attended. They came face to face with chants of ODM Unga! ODM Unga!
Raila renewed his stand for comprehensive reforms that would change the political terrain.
Orengo censured his Cabinet colleagues and challenged them not to abdicate their responsibilities, but to fix the prices at affordable rates.
"We have no business being in Government if we can not fix food prices to feed Kenyans," Orengo said.
Mudavadi said the party cannot afford another stolen election and the reform process must be fast tracked.
Karua received a standing ovation when she arrived at the function. She was, however, later jeered when she asked Raila to help get out those who have occupied houses of those who fled.
Karua later told The Standard she was encouraged by the reception she got in Kibera saying that she will visit the whole country to reconcile Kenyans.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
By David Ohito and Isaac Ongiri
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