By Jerry Okungu
July 24, 2013
One Eliud Owalo, a relatively unknown Kenyan is being given his moment of fame by the police and in return being harassed by the same police that he is a dangerous man capable of overthrowing the Uhuru government.
I must confess I never heard of or met a man called Eliud Owalo until Raila Odinga plucked him from obscurity and made him the Prime Minister’s campaign manager upon the departure of James Ongwae and Barrack Muluka.
After running the Raila campaign to a dead end, one would have expected that Owalo would return to wherever he had come from. Instead, he has reemerged under very unflattering circumstances, a scenario that is giving him sleepless nights.
It is true Eliud Owalo is a Kenyan who has the right to agitate for reforms just like every patriotic Kenyan. In fact being a member of ODM or CORD, he stands a better chance of being the next generation of youthful leaders to take over the leadership of his political party if he has the mettle to do it and if party members feel he has the wherewithal to assume such a role.
However, what I do not or cannot buy is the idea that Owalo has the capacity to affect an Arab Spring in Kenya. I say this because to have a substantial following, you must have a clean record of patriotism, guts and ability to persuade your followers that you have a set of beliefs and values that you are ready to die for if need be.
Secondly, the Arab Spring needs an Arab culture and fanatism that is prevalent in Middle Eastern cultures. To have an Arab Spring you need a critical mass of the population that is ready to sacrifice everything to achieve their objective. You need a critical mass that is equally suicidal with the madness of facing the police and if need be the military with bare hands for days on end without bothering about their personal safety. This culture is definitely missing in our society.
In Kenya, we have more distant spectators when we have a public demonstration than the actual number of participants. We saw it when the crowd deserted mothers of political prisoners in the 1990s at Uhuru Park as police clobbered naked mothers to smithereens.
Even the most celebrated Kamkunji rally now known as Saba Saba Day, there were more people running away at the slightest unleashing of tear gas than the number of demonstrators that confronted the police. In the end, the crowd took off as Rev. Timothy fell victim to the merciless GSU while James Orengo and others were nabbed by the police.
A clear example that Kenya does not enjoy an Arab Spring culture was evident in a recent public demonstration against parliamentarians when the Civil Society invaded the precincts of parliament using pigs as a show of disgust with MPs’ greed. And for the first time, there was a measure of police tolerance of demonstrators unlike in the past when the strategy was to prevent any form of demonstrations by any means necessary.
If the Pigs’ event in parliament did not excite the Kenya public enough to join it in their thousands and occupy parliament for days until their demands were met, nothing in our life time can excite Kenyans to take to the streets in larger numbers as we have seen Egyptians, Libyans, Tunisians and Syrians do.
The reason the Arab Springs have succeeded is because of numbers. Public demonstrations in Tunis, Cairo, Damascus and Libya’s Tripoli were so big that they outnumbered national security agencies many times over. Now when there is a crowd in the cities numbering their millions and is composed of fanatics that are ready to die, the sheer numbers make the political class and their security apparatus think twice before they move against the crowds with guns and buttons.
The best moment when the Arab Spring would have taken place in Kenya was in January 2008 when parts of the country erupted in what one would have called a near uprising. At that time large regions of the country felt short changed following the 2007 rigged elections.
The uprisings were more pronounced in Rift Valley, Nyanza, Western and Coast regions. This uprising did not achieve its objective because it lacked ideological leadership.
The masses were left to their own devices to manage the uprising. And before long, the fighter youths turned into murderous gangs, raping and looting causing untold suffering to ordinary Kenyans. This indiscipline made it possible for the police to go on the rampage and shoot to kill innocent Kenyans some of whom were fished out of their homes and shot dead as long as they were in the opposition strong holds.
At the end of the day the ethnic dimension that the conflict took almost gave Kenyans the first real civil war that would have pitted the Kikuyus against the Luos and Kalenjins along with other tribes aligning themselves with their traditional allies.
Moreover, the growth of the middle class and pursuit of wealth at any cost, coupled with extreme selfishness makes it difficult for the masses to join demonstrations in large numbers. They will whine and moan about prices of basic commodities but they will not lay their lives on the line for prices to come down. They would rather pay high taxes than risk losing their meager savings to looters in mass demonstrations/
This man who was head of Raila's presidential campaign secretariat has been linked by the CID to the March 4 Movement, an organization the police claim is creating networks to destabilize the government and cause a revolution, an organization whose ownership has been claimed by human rights activist, Okiya Omtata.
If he is not in any way affiliated to M4M, why is the police hell bent on sticking the label on him? Is Owalo the most attractive individual to make the authorities believe their security agencies are working? Is it because Owalo is linked to Raila, the real target in this thoughtless saga? If I were in charge of Security agencies, I would revisit this whole story and throw it out as garbage.