Sunday, June 1, 2014

RAILA MUST DO MORE TO SATISFY HIS SUPPORTERS' HUNGER FOR CHANGE

If I was a teacher and I was asked to grade CORD's rally last Saturday, I would give the opposition coalition an A plus in crowd pull, C in substance, A in noise-making and D in protocol

There is no doubt that the Uhuru Park rally held to celebrate Raila Odinga's return from a two month sabbatical in the United States was humongous, comparable - in my opinion - only to the congregation that ushered in the opposition National Rainbow Coalition at the same venue on 14 October 2002.

The human mass at the historic grounds was befitting "Baba" and was definitely what the doctor had ordered for a coalition which, only a few weeks ago, was on the brink of oblivion. But the chaos seen at the meeting; from poor crowd control, to protocol bungles, to repetitive content, and most importantly to the absence of a clear change message - played havoc to wananchi's high expectations for a substantive political shift.

It was obvious then that the cacophonous chants of "Uhuru must go" and "bado mapambano" (aluta continua) were not purposeless. They were well choreographed to embarrass the President.

What the people - some coming as far away as Busia on the border with Uganda and Mombasa on the Indian Ocean - wanted to hear was a message about "revolution"; of "taking over State House"; of the "Arab-like Spring". They certainly were not interested in the beat-up talk about corruption, insecurity and high cost of living, issues the opposition itself has failed to provide alternatives. That's why the crowd was restless and unquiet, unwilling to listen without clamour to anyone including, at some point, Raila himself.

More than once the meeting appeared to be out of control. Even the most significant piece of news of the day; the request to President Uhuru Kenyatta to convene a national dialogue came out jumbled. Co-leader Kalonzo Musyoka talked of a July seven parlour while Raila spoke of a sixty-day ultimatum. Nor did it come out clearly from the speeches whether CORD wanted  a meeting to discuss the prevailing challenges only or the opposition's inclusion in government as well.

That is why as he responded to the request during Madaraka Day celebrations the following day, Uhuru appeared not to know exactly what CORD wanted. It was refreshing that before the end of the day, Raila had fired a statement to the media clarifying that he was not interested in negotiating a place in government but in discussing matters of national concern.

In the past we have seen at opposition rallies fairly efficient arrangements on matters protocol with a well-defined line-up of speakers from the lowest to the highest. But the Saturday meeting was devoid of such finesse and the result was close to chaos as multiple leaders congregated near the microphone each wanting to speak.

To me the rally was an anti-climax and fell far short of what we had been told to expect. It was a victory for democracy though and a confirmation that political meetings can be held peacefully without cause for alarm.

However, with the euphoria of Raila's return now fast drifting into history, it remains to be seen what CORD's next strategy will be. Holding public rallies across the country without a clear message of tangible change will only drive opposition supporters further into a state of restlessness and give the Jubilee coalition a head start as we approach the 2017 elections.

And that is my say.