Heckling, confusion at Kibaki, Raila tour
Published on April 25, 2008, 12:00 am
By Biketi Kikechi and Osinde Obare
Heckling, protocol hitches and tension threatened to mar President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s tour of displaced people in the Rift Valley even as leaders accompanying them preached peace.
Differences of seniority between Raila and Vice-President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, were displayed in public at a rally as the President watched in disbelief during the peace tour to reconcile communities in the Rift Valley.
The largely emotional visit, which was expected to kick off a healing and reconciliation process, started on a bumpy and hostile note when President Kibaki, Kalonzo and Internal Security minister, Prof George Saitoti, were booed. An angry President restrained himself after a section of the crowd in Eldoret walked out on him, while others apparently made remarks the Head of State said were a result of ignorance.
“Sina haja ya kukasirishwa na mtu ambaye hajui anachosema (I will not be angered by those who don’t understand what they are saying,” said Kibaki.
Confusion over protocol
|President Kibaki (centre) and Prime Minister Raila Odinga (second right) arrive at Eldoret ASK showground camp. With them are Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka (second left), Agriculture minister, Mr William Ruto, and his Special Programmes colleague, Dr Naomi Shaban. Picture by Peter Ochieng|
Trouble at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret started when Raila rose to address the attentive crowd and then went ahead and invited the President to speak, ignoring Kalonzo.
But the President instead allowed the VP to speak first then invite him. Raila, protested, saying there should be a distinct line of protocol between his office and the VP’s.
The PM told the rally that the VP’s position was a tier below the PM’s and the President’s.
But under the Constitution, the VP is the principal assistant of the President and is the one who should invite the Head of State to a function whenever present.
This was acknowledged during the swearing in ceremony of the new Cabinet a week ago. It was also followed by the former UN Secretary-General, Dr Kofi Annan, on February 28 when the National Accord was signed.
The agreement states that the Cabinet comprises the President, VP and PM third, among others.
But Government Spokesman, Dr Alfred Mutua, declined to comment on who was senior between the VP and the PM.
“I would rather not comment on the matter,” said Mutua when contacted.
However, Raila said the national accord was clear that PNU and ODM were equal partners in Government. He was, therefore, concerned that officials were not observing protocol.
“Mheshimiwa Rais, hiyo ndiyo inasumbua hawa watu. Ni afadhali ukweli usemwe, kwa sababu ukisemwa, uwongo hujitenga (Mr President, that is where the problem is. Let the truth be told),” said Raila.
That notwithstanding, when Raila invited the President to speak, the Head of State invited Kalonzo to address the gathering.
There was heckling and booing when the VP took the microphone. A section of the crowd waved him away shouting: “Kwenda! Kwenda! (Go away! Go away!).
But Kalonzo braved the hostility and said: “Let those who think that I’m hurting them when I speak forgive me.”
The VP assured the gathering that Agriculture minister, Mr William Ruto, would not be mistreated as they were doing to him (Kalonzo) if he visited his Mwingi constituency.
But the protocol issue was sorted out at the Kachibora camp in Cherangany, Trans Nzoia, where the President addressed another rally later in the afternoon.
Here, Saitoti invited Kalonzo before Raila addressed the meeting. Then President Kibaki followed. The PM was widely cheered as he thanked the crowd for overwhelmingly voting for ODM.
Message of forgiveness
Raila said some politicians had told him not to go to the Rift Valley allegedly because the atmosphere was not conducive.
“I decided that we should start efforts to reconcile communities so that displaced persons can be resettled,” said Raila.
Saitoti had a difficult time with the crowd that kept booing him as he addressed them.
However, Kibaki and Raila asked people in places hit by post-election violence to live in peace.
The President said every Kenyan had the freedom to live where he or she pleased as long as the land was rightfully acquired.
He asked those who may have differed to forgive one another and continue to live in peace. On this, the President said those opposed to IDPs’ resettlement were wasting time as the Government would ensure that they went back.
“We have decided to live together and the Government will ensure that it is done. Let’s accept each other and live in harmony,” said Kibaki.
He promised that those living in IDP camps would be helped to reconstruct their homes and plant this season so that the country could produce enough food.
Among those who accompanied the President were Cabinet ministers Ruto, Mr Henry Kosgey, Dr Sally Kosgei, Prof Sam Ongeri, Mr Samuel Poghisio and Dr Naomi Shaaban.
Before the rally, the President, the VP, PM and a host of local MPs and leaders, including former Keiyo South MP, Mr Nicholas Biwott, met at the Eldoret State Lodge before visiting IDPs at the ASK showground.
At the grounds, the leaders were met by hopeful IDPs, who seemed eager to be resettled.
The President and the PM are on a three-day tour of the Rift Valley that was worst hit by post-election violence.
The leaders will tour Eldoret, Trans Nzoia, Kipkelion, Sotik, Molo and Naivasha.