Embu stoning of CORD leaders sets dangerous precedent



Last week the Prime Minister and CORD presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his running mate Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka campaigned in the Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu Counties; a region assumed to support Jubilee.

They held rallies at Chuka, Tunyai, Maili Tatu, Mikinduri, Marimanti and Laare in Meru and Tharaka Nithi Counties. They also held rallies at Runyenjes, Gategi, Kiritiri, Ishiara and Embu town. Each of these rallies was very well attended by locals.

However certain small incidents that happened in Chuka, Laare, Runyenjes and Embu town indicate that Jubilee has not learnt much from the 2007 post-election violence. In Chuka as the Vice President was speaking to what was largely a very receptive crowd a small group of less than 50 young men, all looking visibly intoxicated despite the fact that it was 11am in the morning, started chanting pro-Jubilee slogans. They were quickly ushered out of the field by the rest of the public, but it was quite clear someone had mobilised and motivated them to do what they did.

In Laare where there were close to 5,000 people at the rally another group of less than 100 young men, again quite visibly intoxicated, also started shouting pro-Jubilee slogans. When their attempts to interrupt the rally failed they then staged a well-choreographed ‘walk-out’ and went to where the Prime Minister’s helicopter had landed right at the other side of the town. When the PM was boarding his chopper they again started shouting pro-Jubilee slogans and even threw stones at his chopper.

In Runyenjes a Jubilee-branded chopper circled the point where the PM was holding his rally and briefly interrupted the rally. However it was in Moi Stadium Embu town when the media finally captured some footage of these incidents.

CORD was at its last rally in Embu when another small group of not more than 100 young men; again visibly intoxicated, congregated at one corner of the field and started shouting pro-Jubilee slogans and displaying Jubilee branded material. When their attempts to stop the rally were ignored by the public they then started hurling stones at their colleagues who were listening to the CORD leaders. They even went to the extent of throwing stones at the Prime Minister and Vice President’s helicopters.

The top Jubilee leadership has condemned these acts, at least in the media. However I wonder whether they fully understand that their supporters could very easily have lit the matchstick that starts Kenya on a slippery slope to violence against rival coalitions. I wonder whether they have impressed on their local coalition leaders, who were arguably behind these actions, that Jubilee leaders have traversed the country without CORD supporters resorting to such actions.

Does Jubilee understand what would happen if CORD supporters decided to do the same at Jubilee campaigns, or are they assuming they have an exclusivity getting small groups of young men drunk on cheap liquor, and having them throw stones at national leaders? Isn’t this the same thing that happened to Martha Karua, also in Embu, a few weeks ago?

Is there a quiet strategy being employed by Jubilee to ensure that members of the public in regions assumed to be their strongholds do not interact with rival coalitions or presidential candidates? Are the ‘leaders’ behind these actions the same ones calling themselves digital? How is it that they have no shame intoxicating other young men so that they can throw stones at an incumbent Prime Minister and Vice President of the Republic of Kenya? How do they expect to be respected by other Kenyans in the unlikely event that they themselves ascend to such offices?

What I find even sadder is the effect of these incidences on Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto’s ICC cases. As Hon Muthama pointedly told the young men in Embu what they were doing was being beamed across not only Kenya, but the entire world. He asked them whether they understood that they were confirming to the world that it was not far-fetched to imagine followers of the two Jubilee leaders being behind public acts of violence. He pointed out to them that what they were doing was what had taken their presidential and deputy presidential candidates to The Hague.

Finally, I know Hon Uhuru Kenyatta has stated on numerous occasions that he will concede defeat when he loses on March 4th. I actually believe him. What I am concerned about are his followers, and his capacity to resist pressure from them. Just two months ago he made a decision to shelve his presidential ambitions on behalf of Musalia Mudavadi. However his supporters forced him to rescind this decision. After watching his supporters in Embu and Meru and the fact that they have shown a capacity to violently resist CORD, I am worried that they will not allow him to concede defeat after March 4th. I hope I am wrong.

(Wambugu is the Director of Political Affairs in the Raila Odinga Campaign Secretariat)

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