Thousands turn up to welcome PM in Kisumu
Published on May 11, 2008, 12:00 am
By Peter Atsiaya And Harold Ayodo
Prime Minister Raila Odinga landed in Kisumu with a spring and the swarming crowds garlanded its favourite son with a memorable, pompous welcome.
It was an outflow of adoration for the man they have given so many names all of which pay homage to his political prowess. But when he asked them to accept the Grand Coalition, arguing the Orange Democratic Movement had not been handed a raw deal in the power sharing, they gave him a different face. A long one at that, for those who spoke earlier had to take back the President’s name.
|A huge crowd turned out to welcome Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Kisumu on Saturday. But this year, the homecoming parties have not been as ecstatic as those of 2003. Picture by James Keyi|
It was Raila’s big day; to them he fought the good fight and is at their hearts. It presented to the nation Raila’s next test, that of solidifying the coalition without losing out on the voting bloc that adulates him so much.
But still Raila, who switched to Dholuo to reach more ears and probably to be more convincing, asked them to forget the past, and grapple with the present and the future.
He said he was out to unite Kenya and asked for support. But the crowd were uncomfortable with his idea of the coalition. “You helped me to spear and kill the antelope to death but someone claimed he is the one who did it … we therefore had to share this animal,” Raila told the crowd as it noisily disapproved of certain parts of his speech, particularly the news he would soon be bringing the coalition leaders to Nyanza.
Red carpet reception
His entourage, in which the Party of National Unity wing of the Cabinet was conspicuously missing, said the march to State House was on.
“I shall not get tired, do not get tired, we are only on a short break before the tough battle resumes … I hope you will remain solidly behind us,” Water minister Mrs Charity Ngilu said.
Raila told them the coalition was a transitory body, it is temporary, and he is now in a position to push through its campaign promises.
The lakeside city clouded by teargas and scarred by tear-gas fumes only a weeks ago, throbbed with joy as Raila, who too suffered police brutality during post-election violence and the Government’s fight-back, landed on a Kenya Air Force jet. The aura around him was stately; he walked on a red carpet and ecstatically watched on the electrified crowd, as State security officials ringed him.
It was a different Raila, the burly ‘bouncers’ with dark glasses that used to clear the way for him, deep inside the crowds, were not in insight. Instead, because of his recent eye operation, it was Raila who bore detective Kojak’s classes.
Raila said he knew that supporters of ODM were bitter with the outcome of the last General Election, but appealed for patience and calm, saying “Mvumilivu hula mbivu.” (Patience pays).
Tension heightened when a section of the crowd shouted down speakers who mentioned names of senior Government officials from PNU. This forced Raila not to mention names of some politicians whom he said had sent greetings to the people of Nyanza.
“I bring you greetings from Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr Najib Balala and other colleagues in the Government from Nairobi, who could not make it to this occasion,” Raila said.
Agriculture Minister William Ruto and his Public Works colleague Chris Obure had earlier found themselves in trouble when they tried to justify the Coalition Government.
Ruto was forced to eat his words after he mentioned the name of President Kibaki in his speech.
“President Kibaki and Raila are principals in the Coalition Government,” Ruto said, before the crowd interjected by shouts of usitaje Kibaki (do not mention Kibaki).
Ruto then changed tact amid cheers, and said,” Raila na yule mwingine (Raila and the other person) are leaders of the Coalition Government.”
Obure received a similar treatment when he asked the crowd, “How many wanted the leaders to stick to the Coalition Government? It responded with a resounding No!
Cries of hatuwataki (we do not want them) rent the air after Raila announced that he planned to bring members of the Coalition Government to the region as part of reconciliation.
ODM was not shortchanged
Over 45 MPs attended the ceremony at the Moi Stadium, Kisumu. It was a rare occasion as Raila turned into his ecstatic supporters to appreciate the inevitability of certain sections of his speech.
Later Raila’s spokesman, Mr Salim Lone, commented: “Kisumu today provided a fascinating combination of passionate adulation for Raila and at the same time open expression of their dissatisfaction with his policy on coalition government. This is a true democratic spirit.’’
“We were not short-changed … let us not be bitter but forget the past and move ahead as one nation,” Raila said.
The crowd of over 30,000 people seemed not to be contented with the explanation.
“I am in a better position to serve you because all the Cabinet ministers and their assistants report to me. You must know that I am an Executive Prime Minister,” Raila said, amid cheers.
He went on, “I co-ordinate and supervise all the ministries and you should bank on me for the change that you voted for.”
When a section of the crowd continued to mumble over the power sharing deal, Raila sought to explain in Dholuo. “Joka nyanam okwa dhi marach ahinya ewach ni (People of the Lake, we have not faired badly in this matter).” That is when he gave the analogy of the antelope and himself as the hunter.
He said ODM benefited from the power sharing deal, adding party MPs were allocated strategic ministries and counted one after another.
Lands Minister James Orengo echoed Raila’s sentiments saying, “We in ODM have majority and authority in Parliament … we should not be underrated.”
The crowd at one time complained of perpetual harassment by police before Raila said Ndhiwa MP Orwa Ojode would address their grievances.
“Ojode is the assistant minister of Internal Security and will deal with complaints you have raised about the police,” Raila said. But Ojode was not at the function as he had travelled to Mt Elgon on official duty.
Raila said he wanted to prove to the world that grand coalition governments could work in countries hit by a leadership stalemate after elections.
There was also a mass disapproval from the crowd when a visiting Tanzanian Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Mr John Magufuli mentioned the Ugandan Government in his speech.
“Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda will remain united to bring economic development in East Africa,” Magufuli said, amid shouts of “hatutaki kusikia Uganda.” (We do not want to hear Uganda).
Magufuli caused laughter when he retreated, saying: “Kenya, Tanzania and the other country you do not want me to mention would foster unity in East Africa.”
Residents of Kisumu widely believe that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is not in good books with Raila following allegations that its soldiers helped to quell post- election protests that left hundreds of people killed and maimed in the lakeside town.
At the same time, ODM sent the strongest signal ever that they had begun serious preparation for the General Election in 2012. Ministers Ngilu (Water), Orengo (Lands), Mr Henry Kosgey (Industry), Mr Otieno Kajwang’ (Immigration) and Ruto said ODM had not abandoned the presidential dream.
Trade Assistant Minister Mr Omingo Magara said: “Watch this space … we are going to do great things as people from western Kenya because we will remain united.”
Speakers – including Raila – paid tribute to the youth whose massive protests forced President Kibaki to negotiate with ODM.
“We thank you because you were our weapons when the PNU were adamant on our demands after the disputed poll results. You blocked all roads and forced them to heed our call,” Ruto said.
Ruto called for the unconditional release of hundreds of youth arrested by police over the post-election violence.
He also spoke about selective justice in the handling of post-election violence suspects.