Leaders react to Saba Saba rally

Kenya: Jubilee and their Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) counterparts traded accusations in the aftermath of the Opposition’s Saba Saba rally held at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park on Monday.

While the Jubilee leaders slammed CORD’s demand for a referendum, the Opposition leaders alleged that their supporters were intimidated and harassed by the police not to attend the rally owing to the heavy security presence.

Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki and his National Assembly counterpart Aden Duale hit out at the

Opposition leaders, accusing them of seeking to force the Government to share power with CORD.

This came as details emerged of how the Saba Saba rally organized at Uhuru Park by CORD vacated the national dialogue demands for a referendum.

Sources told The Standard that CORD opted to drop the demands to avoid neutralising the relevance of Saba Saba, especially after the Government stuck to its guns in refusing to accede to its demands for talks.

An earlier morning meeting between key CORD leaders led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula met at the former’s Capitol Hill offices in Nairobi and agreed to craft the strategy that was also aimed at managing the huge expectations of CORD supporters who had thronged Uhuru Park.

The meeting was also attended by senators Johnstone Muthama (Machakos), James Orengo (Siaya) and Otieno Kajwang’ (Homa Bay).

Kalonzo had said the day would be like no other and that CORD would lead their supporters in exercising their will.

“We are not in a hurry today, we have carried enough food, water and blankets. We shall remain here until the Government accedes to our demands,” the former Vice President had told expectant supporters.

“The Opposition is scoring zero in every of their approach and strategy. They have failed to manage and co-ordinate their role as Opposition and now want inclusion in Government. This is a Jubilee Government that was constitutionally and overwhelmingly elected by the Kenyan people and will not cede any ground by giving in to Opposition theatrics,” Kindiki claimed yesterday.

“Ultimately Kenyans know what the Opposition is after. They want power by all means, but we want to dare them that even if we went into another election Kenyans will not vote for empty rhetoric but performance,” the Tharaka Nithi senator charged.

“Kenyans want to know how their lives will be made better and the cost of living cut down. Those who want to take the country back into a campaign mood with their calls for a referendum are missing the point,” he added.

He asked CORD to follow the law to address the issues they are raising, including the high cost of living, by bringing legislation to Parliament to solve issues of taxation and push to disband the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Kindiki said CORD had already initiated a parliamentary process to reform IEBC, and should pursue that instead of pushing for its disbandment.

Duale warned the Opposition that Kenyans are intelligent and would not accept to be used as conduits.

“The Opposition should realise that the issues they are raising are better addressed in Parliament and they know what to do. Making laws that target to cut the cost of living is part of the legislative work, and that is not solved at public rallies,” Duale said.

“The expectation of our supporters were too big. The leaders had to give leadership for the purpose of constitutionalism. The hard decision was made in a way that respects the Constitution while at the same time managing the high expectations,” said Suna East MP Junet Mohamed.

CORD also accused the Government of deploying thousands of security officials drawn from all police units as well as the Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Prisons and the Kenya Wildlife Service to “intimidate and harass” their supporters.

CORD alleged that thousands of their supporters from their strongholds in Nairobi estates such as Huruma, Baba Dogo, Mathare, Kawangware, and some parts of Kibera were blocked from making their way to the Central Business District to attend the rally.

“Why could the Government deploy thousands of police officers to the estates to intimidate CORD supporters and force them into their houses. We had promised that the rally would be peaceful and the Government had no reason to fear us. We do not have the capacity to breach peace,” said Orengo.

He accused Jubilee of reverting to the old Kanu Government’s antics of intimidation and political harassment to silence the Opposition despite the new Constitution. Kajwang’ said the Government was scared of the might of CORD’s supporters and had hatched plans to confine them to their residences.

“It is an act of cowardice and panic for the Government to deploy such numbers to intimidate our supporters. That cannot be allowed in a mature democracy,” he said.

“The rally was a major success for the coalition in our call to push the Jubilee Government to address the serious issues that the common mwananchi wants solved. Our resolve is clear that we want to liberate Kenyans from the height of impunity and perpetual injustice,” said Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang said.

“We went round the country and talked to Kenyans. They said they wanted a referendum on the issues they raised. To call the Saba Saba rally a sham is derogatory and demeaning to the voices of Kenyans who want to liberated,” he said.

Former Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa urged CORD leaders to stop holding rallies to allow Kenyans to concentrate on their day-to-day activities.

Wamalwa said the rallies were putting the country in an election mood leading to a heated political environment. He said the tension created has led to some tribes fleeing certain areas for fear of attacks.

“The tribal animosity coming from the rallies by CORD leaders is not good for the country and Kenyans should shun it because we just came out of the general election. Why should they confuse the minds of Kenyans to look as if Kenya is a failed state?” asked Wamalwa.

Speaking at the homecoming of Misikhu MCA Robert Mwembe at Nambami Primary School in Webuye West Constituency, Wamalwa said the country has a legally elected Head of State and his deputy and Kenyans should not be hoodwinked by some few individuals with selfish interests and hidden agendas. The New Ford Kenya party leader said the country needs politics of development not politics that can cause chaos.

Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka urged the Opposition leaders to find a lasting solution to the issues they want addressed instead of traversing the whole country preaching hatred and corrupting minds of Kenyans into supporting their agendas.

“Let CORD leaders look for the best way of meeting with the Head of the State instead of demanding for what the Government cannot accept. It is high time the Opposition seeks the best solutions to problems facing Kenyans instead of countrywide rallies that can cause a revolution which can put the country in an awkward situation,” said Lusaka.