Cord leader Raila Odinga on Wednesday promised a “return to the trenches” if the issues being raised under the Okoa Kenya campaign launched on Saba Saba day are not resolved.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Nation, Mr Odinga responded to many of the queries arising from Monday’s rally.
He dismissed accusations by the Jubilee leaders that the Saba Saba campaign was aimed at ousting the government through mass action, but defended the right to peaceful demonstrations, assembly and picketing.
He agreed that the new initiative sought to replicate the campaign of 1990 against the one-party Kanu administration, but denied any intentions of seeking regime-change through violent demonstrations.
On why the grievances Cord had outlined cannot be addressed through existing institutions, Mr Odinga said that Parliament was one of the problems. He accused it of being used as a tool of the Executive to pass laws intended to take away the gains of the new Constitution.
He also clarified that only a few of the issues listed in Cord’s 13-point agenda were intended for a referendum, listing a proposal to disband the Electoral Commission, securing devolved governments and the role of the Legislature versus the Executive as some of the key issues that the Opposition wants to be determined by the people.
Other issues on the agenda that included demands for reducing the cost of living and threats to boycott over-priced goods and services; action on insecurity; an end to corruption and wasteful government spending; cancellation of the Safaricom security contract; and withdrawal of the Kenya Defence Forces from Somalia, were being floated for public discussion and search for solutions rather than resolution through a public vote.
RECOGNISED LEGITIMACY OF JUBILEE
Responding to questions arising out of the Saba Saba rally that was billed as the launch of movement that would shake the Jubilee government, Mr Odinga denied accusation that he was out on a campaign to oust the government through mass action or to force through another power-sharing accord.
He recognised the legitimacy of the Jubilee Coalition headed by President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, he said, and noted that after losing the presidential election and the Supreme Court petition, he disagreed with the outcome but publicly accepted and moved on, even congratulating the President.
He also addressed the issue of how Cord intends to force through a public referendum when the proposal must still be approved by the same Parliament in which Jubilee enjoys a “tyranny of numbers” and which must also be approved by half of the counties before the question can be put to the vote.
He insisted that the Jubilee majority cannot override a citizens’ petition backed by one million signatures, saying, the role of MPs in such a scenario was limited to considering the way in which the question set for a public poll was framed and “editing work”.
On the anxiety that talk of mass action had caused, Mr Odinga said Kenyans must change their attitude and accept the principle of public participation and campaigns as a democratic right secured by the Constitution.
“Violent demonstrations and attacks and killing each other is not mass action; that is criminal activity,” he said. “Democratic mass action is about picketing and demonstrations, which happen everywhere… We must change our thinking that mass action is something that must be wild and destructive.”
He gave the example of countries where people picket and demonstrate right up to the steps of Parliament on issues such as animal rights. In such countries, he said, police escort the protesters rather than try to block them, as he claims happened during Saba Saba when he alleged that the police intimidated the people making their way to Uhuru Park.
Mr Odinga denied accusations by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku and Jubilee leaders that Cord was enlisting Mungiki, the Mombasa Republic Council and other criminal outfits to cause chaos in the country, including the Mpeketoni attacks in which over 60 people were killed last month.
He dismissed the accusations as preposterous, saying that anyone, including himself, engaged in such activities should be arrested and charged with for treason.
TRAIN AND ORGANISE
He recalled that the first Mpeketoni attack came soon after Cord held its rally in Mombasa, and wondered when the raiders would have had the time to arm themselves, train and organise if the rally was what incited the murderous rampage.
Mr Odinga accused the Jubilee government of panicking for no good reason, saying, it has always accused the Opposition of being asleep, but was now running around in fright and concocting wild accusations when confronted with serious issues.
The Okoa Kenya campaign resolved to form an all-inclusive National Referendum Committee to pave the way for a national vote on critical challenges the country faces. It will be tasked with formulating the referendum questions and collecting a million signatures to initiate the referendum.
The committee is not yet in place, but Mr Odinga revealed that consultations were going on to name an all-inclusive team comprising civil society representatives and religious groups among others.