Kenya: Former PM Raila Odinga’s homecoming today evokes memories of a similar one held more than 20 years ago to welcome back former
opposition leader Kenneth Matiba.
While the circumstances under which Raila and Matiba both left and returned to the country after
spending time abroad are different, there are similarities that can be drawn with regards to the euphoria likely to be witnessed from supporters as they welcome back the CORD leader.
Matiba’s return to the country was after an 11- month sojourn in London, where he had sought
treatment after he suffered a stroke.
He was coming back to the country largely without a political outfit
(it was after his return that the original Forum for
Restoration of Democracy (Ford) movement split into Ford Asili and Ford Kenya.
He had also not contested the presidency but would later vie for the position in the 1992 General Election, and lose to former President Daniel Moi.
Raila, on the other hand, returns to the country after spending nearly three months in the US on a
programme for retired African Heads of State and Government, on a university lecture tour,highlighting Africa’s triumphs and challenges at
high profile institutions, as CORD leader.
He has contested the presidency thrice and lost, but in the last two cases (2007, 2013) he lost and said he was robbed off victory.
Matiba received an ecstatic reception when he landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on May 2, 1992 at 8.15am, aboard a Kenya Airways flight from London.
Crowds sang songs in his praise, hailing him as their ‘saviour and ‘hero’.
In return, Matiba worked up the crowds with his ‘Forward ever, backwards never’ refrain.
Chants of Karibu Matiba, Karibu nyumbani (welcome Matiba, welcome home) and Karibu Mzee, kuja utuokoe (welcome back to save us) rent the air as masses surged forward to catch a glimpse of the
The crowd, estimated at nearly half a million people sang, danced, waved banners, placards and twigs with no policemen in sight lining
the route Matiba would use into the city centre.
In contrast, today’s rally nearly failed to take off after Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo
initially cited security concerns for banning rallies that were to be held by CORD and Jubilee.
But similarly, Raila returns as a ‘saviour’ to his supporters even as the country is grappling with
terrorism, high cost of living, row over the payment of Anglo leasing type contracts.
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