|Cord leader Raila Odinga is welcomed at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.|
Nairobi, Kenya: Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and fellow opposition chiefs have given President Uhuru Kenyatta a 37-day ultimatum to call a national dialogue conference to address the plight of Kenyans, failure to which CORD would call the conference on July 7, 2014.
After extensive consultations with CORD co-principals, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Leader of Minority in the Senate, Moses Wetang’ula, Raila reported they had arrived at the first steps “towards bringing healing and justice to our land”.
The trio said Kenya must hold a national dialogue bringing together all the major political coalitions represented in Parliament with the participation of representatives of civil society, religious denominations and workers organisations.
“While I was away, I heard all your complaints from the messages you sent me, through phone calls and twitter. But today I have come back with a cure for your ailments,” Raila told thousands of supporters who turned up at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, to welcome him back after a three-month absence in the USA.
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“We are asking my brother Raila to call for a national dialogue with Uhuru and members of his Jubilee team on Saba-Saba Day (July 7th, 2014). If they fail to participate in the same, Kenyans will demand that they leave office and go home,” said former Vice President, Kalonzo Musyoka.
Rehashing the now common refrain on twitter, “#BabaWhileYouWereAway”, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leader observed that in the three months he had been away, Kenyans daily communicated their frustrations to him via email, SMS, phone calls and twitter.
“A baby was shot in Mombasa and his mother killed, part of the growing victims of insecurity that has claimed young and old, babies and mothers. The cost of living soared. While we were away, billions of Kenya shillings were digitally transferred to agents of impunity before Kenyans could wink,” he charged.
The former PM also observed that tourists left Kenya in droves and hundreds of Kenyans lost jobs, courtesy of growing insecurity and hopelessness.
He also singled out what he termed arbitrary arrests of members of the Muslim community.
“Instead of undertaking the hard and disciplined fight against terrorists, our government has singled out an entire community to scapegoat and persecute. This must stop immediately,” he said.
“And as leaders milk this country dry to fatten their own bank accounts, prices soar out of the reach of ordinary Kenyans since money is being siphoned away from service delivery. We must stop this downward spiral not tomorrow but now!” said Raila.
The CORD leaders also repeated their calls for the disbandment of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Leading the assault, Kalonzo, who is the party leader of Wiper Democratic Movement, was categorical that the coalition will not allow the electoral body to preside over another national poll “because of its open bias towards Uhuru”.
Raila added that there was no way there could be free and fair election conducted by the IEBC as currently constituted which can meet the constitutional test — impartial, neutral, efficient, accurate and accountable.
“This IEBC is busy fighting for its life in criminal courts; election courts and is under probe by both state organs and non-state actors. It must be retired,” he said.
Ecstatic CORD supporters started streaming into Uhuru Park as early as 8.00 am and waited patiently for Raila until 3.33pm when his entourage snaked into the crowded venue from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
“I bring greetings from the country of Barack Obama Jnr to the land of Barack Obama Senior. I thank the people of Kenya for turning out in such multitudes to welcome Ida and I back home. I will never forget this day,” Raila told a cheering audience.
He said he was happy to have served as a Kenyan Ambassador, while away in the US on a special programme for retired African Heads of State and Government.
Assuring supporters that the leadership of CORD shall remain united, Leader of Minority in the Senate, Moses Wetang’ula announced the coalition’s plan to hold rallies countrywide to drum up support for its cause.
And in what is bound to cause a lot of discomfort within Jubilee, Raila maintained, “we must take charge of the affairs of our nation today, hold our destiny in our hands and, together, take control of the duty to defend our Constitution”.
Wetang’ula, as well as Kakamega County Senator, Dr Bonny Khalwale, also castigated the Kenyatta Government for allegedly discriminating against Kenyans from certain regions in employment opportunities.
Speaker after speaker complained of the soaring prices of essential goods, with the former PM pleading the case of devolution.
“We need our governors to be empowered and more cash to be given to county governments, as well as a reduction of increased costs on essentials such as food, bus fare and house rent.”
Though punchy and politically charged, the Raila welcome party at Uhuru Park was a very brief ceremony. Earlier, at JKIA, Raila kept journalists waiting for a scheduled press conference, only for him to be sneaked out of the airport facility and driven straight to Uhuru Park.
The arrival of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader was equally shrouded in secrecy. On Friday night, some senior operatives of ODM and CORD sent signals to the effect that Raila had actually arrived in the country on Friday night. Our investigations from officers at the National Intelligence Service (NIS) revealed otherwise, with one of the officers suggesting that the Raila team was probably planting a decoy to mislead people about his arrival time, owing to security concerns.
The press conference venue at JKIA was equally a makeshift arrangement, which left many journalists and politicians askance. A podium was mounted at one of the lobbies of the domestic departure areas.
Leader of Minority in the National Assembly, Francis Nyenze expressed shock and disappointment at the spartan arrangement.
But Homa Bay County Women Representative, Gladys Wanga was philosophical: “Baba is used to this type of mistreatment. It does not really matter to him and us. What is important is that we have the people on our side.”