The Opposition must live by the democratic script that they preach
“From Where I Sit, Odinga’s Revolution Must Begin with Raila and His Four Children on the Front Line; Otherwise, Raila’s Revolutionary Rhetoric is simply Unrealistic and Childish”
What could CORD leader, Raila Odinga be up to, since his return from a three-month stay in the United States? Raila left the country in March a wounded politician, in the wake of the ODM national elections fiasco. He has returned a supercharged political dynamo.
He tears into the Jubilee Government with abandon. Where will it end? He says he will liberate Kenya from the Jubilee Government on July 7. This is unless President Kenyatta accepts a national dialogue, on his terms. Accordingly, he recently scoffed at a State House invite to a groundbreaking tea meeting with the President.
Now, Raila has declared July 7, a public holiday. He has advised us all to stay at home on this day. I think there is nothing wrong with Raila holding peaceful rallies across the country, to express his disquiet with the Government. Such is the freedom we have fought for.
Those who have suggested that he should stop the rallies deny him his rights. For they go against the spirit of the Constitution. The Minister for Interior has threatened to arrest Raila. He is wrong. What really counts is what Raila intends to achieve with his rallies. Will it be good or harmful to greater citizens’ interest? Is it realistic? Is it achievable?
What should we expect on July 7? Raila has called for a people’s revolution. Does he mean the overthrow the Constitutional order, as it exists? The chant “Uhuru must go!” is becoming quite common at the rallies.
But can you remove Kenyatta from Government through extra legal methods and leave everything else intact? Revolutions involve the overthrow of constitutional orders in their entirety. But is an Egypt kind of revolution possible in Kenya as things stand today? The vitriol we see everyday on the social media should suffice to tell us that the most you could get out of an attempted revolution would be a tribal bloodbath. Raila will want to assure Kenyans that it is not his intent to lead the country in that direction.
As he travels preaching revolution and formation of cells to help push through the revolution, it would be good for Raila to paint for us a clear picture of where he purposes to take the country. What does he mean when he says he will “liberate” us? What happens to the constitutional order? What does he purpose to do with the Jubilee leaders, once his revolution goes through, in the unlikely event that it succeeds? Yes, he has promised to shave them with broken bottles, and all. Is this a metaphor, or does he really intend to pass bottles through their hair? And will they be just meekly sitting there waiting to be shaved with bottles?
An impertinent young man recently sent me an email to the effect that “the hottest part of the forthcoming revolutionary flame is spared for people like me, who remain neutral while they are suffering.” Another one began a rumour on social media that “Muluka is dead.” What assurances can Raila give Kenyans about the freedoms they have fought for so hard? Are the civil liberties that we wrestled from Kanu about to go away, now that “a revolution” is coming? Are you not even allowed to be neutral? Will we all taste of CORD’s broken bottles and haircuts without water, if we do not agree with everything Odinga says or wants?
From where I sit, the revolution must begin with Raila and his four children on the frontline. The march to State House should not see protective human walls around the “revolutionaries.” They must demonstrate that their lives are not any more precious than other people’s, used as human shields. Nor should they leave their children in safe havens away from the theatre of the revolutionary drama.
The other clear indication that a revolution is on would be massive resignation of CORD’s elected politicians. While it is not in doubt that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has its flaws – major and minor – it is also true that the IEBC legitimised their election as MPs, Senators and the rest. You cannot reasonably call for the disbandment of IEBC while also serving in an office the IEBC legitimised. Resigning would affirm your commitment to the “revolution.” In any event, a true revolution is coming, you will not need that position.
Yet I think that Raila’s revolutionary rhetoric is simply unrealistic. It is childish to imagine that you can just march to State House shouting slogans and cause President Kenyatta to bolt through some backdoor in panic. That Raila can then take over, suspend the Constitution and declare, “Kenya is now free.” If indeed anybody is sufficiently hotheaded to go that direction, the only predictable outcomes would be an unprecedented ethnic bloodbath, looting and other criminal activities that excited crowds and gangsters indulge in whenever opportunities such as this come their way.
Raila is, of course, aware of all this. That is why his children will not be joining the “revolutionary parade.” Indeed, Raila is prayerful that the Jubilee Government could be thoughtless enough arrest him ahead of his “revolution.” They would, of course, make him a hero. They would mould him in the fashion of Nelson Mandela. His supporters would go overboard in protest and mayhem, demanding his release. This would only lead to more bloodletting as the other side’s supporters join the fray.
It is worth repeating what I wrote in this column two weeks ago. The citizens of any country have a right to ask for dialogue with their government. The first port of call in this kind of conversation is the political opposition. No government in the world can legitimately engage in grandstanding and say to the opposition, “We will not talk to you. Leave us alone to do our work. We were elected. You lost the election.” Such kinds of pronouncements are irresponsible. If people living together do not talk to one another, they surely must prepare to fight. For the issues will not go away.
Equally irresponsible is the thought that the Opposition should intimidate the government and persons who do not agree with everything the Opposition wants. How do you call for dialogue while also demonstrating that you cannot tolerate other people’s views? Such is the substance of despotism. Opposition leaders and their followers must live by the democratic script that they preach. They must put up or shut up.