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ELECTION 2022

Stand-off over rally venue quite unnecessary

COMMENTARY
By Fred Waga | Sep 18th 2016 | 3 min read
It is quite unfortunate that politicians are needlessly stoking the embers and spoiling for a fight following an announcement by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Jubilee that they will both be holding rallies at the same venue today.PHOTO: COURTESY

It is quite unfortunate that politicians are needlessly stoking the embers and spoiling for a fight following an announcement by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Jubilee that they will both be holding rallies at the same venue today.

In the last few days ODM has said it was finalising plans to hold a rally at a nondescript venue — the Masinde Muliro grounds in Mathare — to drum up supports for its leader Raila Odinga who intends to seek nomination to vie for the presidency. Jubilee has also laid claim to the venue, and Mathare MP Steven Kariuki, who recently defected from ODM to join the Jubilee Party (JP), said they would be holding a rally to beat the drums for their leader, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, the nation’s president.

Without delving into the merits or demerits of either claim, it is clear that there is some mischief afoot. Why would leaders of these parties be beating themselves up to hold a rally at an unremarkable venue where they can easily gather excitable mobs from nearby slums who are prone to causing trouble? Could there be a deliberate attempt to fuel a confrontation between the two groups? It is not lost on observers that these activities— coming a week after JP was formally launched, and after ODM held a grand ceremony to celebrate its 10th anniversary— are aimed at ratcheting up support for their leaders with an eye on the August 2017 poll.

This will not be the first time that there has been a stand-off over a rally venue. Early this year, the opposition movement, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, and the government locked horns over who between CORD and the government had the authority to use Uhuru Park on Madaraka Day on June 1. After much posturing, trouble was averted when the government ceded ground and CORD was allowed to hold a rally at this venue

The Mathare stand-off seems to be taking the same direction. While no one begrudges either side their right to drum up support for their leaders, launching political campaigns one year before the next elections is premature. It is also disruptive because on many occasions such effusive celebrations result in violence and disturb the peace.

It is not by chance that most modern societies — Kenya included — pencil the date in which official political campaigns should begin.

We must state unequivocally that while we support that rights of citizens to associate and assemble, greater public good is served when such assembly is structured so that the rights of others minding the peace are not trampled on.

Already the police have been asked to intervene and resolve the stand-off, even though one party says it does not recognise its jurisdiction on this matter.

We therefore call for level heads to prevail — leaders from either party must come out and call back their attack dogs. Otherwise the road leading up to the 2017 General Election will be fraught with peril.

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