It would be a cliché to describe the crowd at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on Saturday as mammoth.
But it was huge.
Cord leaders had vowed to bring in a million people.
Well, that number was not achieved but thousands of political supporters, and maybe hecklers, turned up at the venue to welcome
former Prime Minister and Cord leader Raila Odinga.
The event had been a subject of social media discussions since last week.
Politicians from across the political divide had their say too which filtered into the mainstream media.
It was also a subject of police directives to ban it but which were later reversed.
It was allowed to go on.
However, for a crowd that thronged the venue from as early as 6 in the morning, Cord leaders showed up at 3pm.
Still, there are important lessons we can draw away from all that frenzy.
The police were the winners after all,but in a different kind of way;what they feared most-an unruly crowd of supporters who could pose security risk among other things,never came to pass.
Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo must have felt a sigh of relief when the crowd at Uhuru
Park started milling away.
Finally, he might have felt the event that brought him so much flak this
week had ended, at least peacefully.
On Tuesday, Mr Kimaiyo announced he had banned all political rallies for “security reasons.”
A few hours later, he appeared to speak from the other side of his mouth when he told Citizen TV he had not banned any political rally.
Minutes later, he said he would allow the rallies if they occurred away from the venues of Madaraka (self-
rule) Day celebrations.
But things happened.
Cord announced they would defy the ban and a Cord supporter rushed to court to overturn the ban on legal reasons.
The next day, Mr Kimaiyo reversed the ban much to the mockery
by those on Twitter.
But it now appears he was right to reverse the ban.
Political rallies carry both ‘ants and termites’,to quote a Kitendawili from a popular politician and standing in their way could have turned chaotic.
To deal with excited supporters, you simply allow them to shout but guard the area.
They will go home after all,and the President had said as much,earlier in the week.
It is the same logic teachers used in
high school to tame noisy students: Give the noisiness some formality by allowing students to talk
in your presence in form of group discussions.
Chances are, they won’t talk much.
On this occasion, the police simply patrolled the streets, stood guard around the venue and could be seen whisking away one or two deviants.
It generally was a good day at the office for the cops. No ugly incidences of street battles which would have been anticipated if the ban prevailed
Political rallies are still a source of
entertainment to many poor Kenyans.
Covering a rally like this homecoming is stressful to journalists.
They want to get every happening of it yet the crowd keeps pushing forward to create mini stampedes.
They just have to have the sense to keep safe,both for their personal safety,and the their equipment.
The same goes for police cordon.
But the crowd does nothing wrong.
Politics remains a good source of entertainment for many in Kenya.
Happening on a day when there
was no football match and drinking is becoming expensive, attending the rally was an easy way of soothing their souls.
There were those who went there to glorify Raila Odinga.
They called him Baba.
Yet there were those who went there to settle scores with politicians,like Kidero,who they feel have deserted them in their CORD camp.
On the receiving end of the hecklers in this big crowd was of course Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero who
was heckled down twice when he tried to speak.
He will need to save face soon enough considering there is a case in the Supreme Court over his election last year.
But these hecklers were simply
enjoying themselves. There is no need to take it personally.
It was a free entertainment for them. It gives them a kick to kick-back at someone in authority;that doesn’t often happen in the slums where they come from!
Cord needs Raila, he may not need it to prop up his political ambitions.
He is the personification of any party that he may choose as his political platform to further his ambitions.
Other Co-principals are just mere joy riders hanging on his coat tails.
Raila Odinga appeared to have shiny cheeks and a frame larger in size than two months ago when he left for the US.
He might be in larger suits these
Yet that description could also fit his presence in Cord;his Co-principals now know this,if they didn’t already know.
A year after the Jubilee government won elections, there were critics who argued that the government had failed on many fronts.
Jubilee politicians retorted by arguing they lived with a sleepy opposition.
That was irrelevant but it has taken Cord Raila’s grand return for them to start talking, but they were often stuttering.
The Co-principals needed Raila’s voice to be heard.
On their own,their threats to the government rung hollow and blundering.
Earlier when they organised elections, they ruined them by having Men in Black tearing through the ballot boxes.
When they called a press conference, they ruined their message by attacking a journalist’s tribe.
They apologised, but they had already poured milk, the message they had was forgotten.
It is only in the past three weeks that they awoke, perhaps because Raila was coming back.
But it has something to do with Jubilee’s pronounced failures.
Insecurity, corruption and infighting have given Cord a lifeline to earn public sympathy.
However, it is not that these issues started three weeks ago, they are annual problems.
Whether Cord,now graced by Raila’s presence will sustain the talk is another issue, but one thing was
clear at the rally: They still need Raila to help them criticise the government.
Cord and Jubilee are two sides of the same old dirty coin.
Most of Jubilee politicians today were associates of those in Cord today,as were Kalonzos and Wetangulas who leaned on Jubilee’s faction which was previously known as PNU.
The circumstances have changed, their interests remain the same.
At the rally at Uhuru Park, Cord was criticising Jubilee for its failures, but politicians said they want to take over power.
It is not that Jubilee will not respond to these criticisms.
We expect the response from Sunday when President Kenyatta hosts the Madaraka Day celebrations.
In fact after the rally, Jubilee supporters on Twitter were already mocking Cord as the “best gift” politics ever brought them.
Thus,in the weakness of Cord, Jubilee thrives.
Yet it is the supposed weakness of Jubilee that is re- germinating Cord’s militant attitude.
At the end of the day, those supporters who clang on trees, on lamp poles and those who pushed one another to catch a glimpse of Raila remain the used lot.
They may show up again at the same venue next week when Jubilee holds a political rally there.
After Raila is back, nothing really changed. It will be the same old politics of protests,ultimatums and name calling that is the brand of politicians.
Raila’s best gift is in his charisma.
His speeches are rarely substantial, but there is a way in which he
Some politicians depend on his
hand to succeed.
Supporters simply pass time listening to him amid his Kitendawili humour.
Cord had announced that his coming and the eventual rally would symbolise the start of a long
Politicians who told us that, did not
clarify the journey to where, but former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka told journalists on
Thursday that they wanted to elaborate their “points of departure” from the Jubilee.
When the day came, it emerged there was no formal programme.
Speakers kept calling random
names, not based on rank within the party.
One was heckled, some were ignored and others were told to wait and speak after the person called later.
It was this little confusion that made it difficult to elaborate those points.
Raila wants dialogue with Jubilee over continuing national problems.
In the meantime, the problems
we faced yesterday as Kenyans still remain looming large in the room.
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