NASA’s call for anti-Chiloba protests ill advised

Dear Hon Raila Odinga, receive utmost salutations from this humble son of Kano for a job well done during the 2017 presidential election petition.

Your team of advocates and senior counsels did a stellar job and in the process made history.

Against all odds, you stuck to your belief about electoral malpractice that produced Vifaranga vya Kompyuta as you called them.

Also, in my opinion, the judgment annulling the August 8th elections vindicated you from a perennial sore loser tag that your opponents have labelled you with.

When choruses of ‘accept and move on’ came thick and fast and ‘peacepreneurs’ had our ears deafened by their messages of peace while acting blind to justice, you stood your ground.

As we speak, I’m on page 314 of your autobiography ‘The flame of freedom’. As I continue to do research about you, I’m beginning to notice what sets you apart in Kenya’s political landscape. It is your ability to fight for what you believe is right regardless of what everyone else thinks or says. All throughout your political career, you have taken audacious and risky steps to fight for a fair and just society.

As a disclaimer, let me submit that I do not have a decorated political CV. Unlike you, I have never been detained and my family has never been traumatized by people dumping human waste in our backyard. My father has neither been put under house arrest in my presence nor taken to detention when I was there. I’ve never lost a younger brother in prison because he couldn’t access diabetes drugs on trumped-up charges. I’ve never had to disguise myself as a priest to escape through Lake Victoria to Norway because of threats of detention.

I’ve neither been tortured nor detained without trial in Manyani, Naivasha, Shimo la Tewa and Kamiti prisons as you have. I’ve never seen my kinsmen shot by policemen right in front of me neither have I spent nights in the cold, dark torture chambers of Nyayo house. But you have gone through all that and more.

But I have an opinion…

As I continue to read your autobiography, I’m convinced that the very same strengths you have exhibited in your political career could as well be the Achilles Heel that you need to watch out for. You don’t need yes men around you but those who will be bold enough to tell you when the emperor is naked.

You have called for peaceful protests to remove Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ezra Chiloba and the entire Secretariat.

While your intentions could be in the right place, I highly doubt the effectiveness of this strategy. Yes, I believe in electoral integrity. Yes, I believe in reforms in the IEBC. Yes, I believe that elections were bungled by the Chiloba team and somebody must be held responsible. However, I strongly disagree that protesting is the best we option.

The Supreme Court ruling gave you massive clout around the globe. It cemented your legacy in the hall of fame of iconic leaders. In a democracy, you can’t cherry pick one item and leave the other. Just like you accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling annulling President Kenyatta’s victory, you also need to accept that the same court did not find sufficient evidence to place criminal culpability on the IEBC officials.

But because you believe that some officials of the body including Chiloba are culpable, you went and lodged a complaint with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who immediately ordered the Department of Criminal Investigations to commence investigations.

Democracy doesn’t allow you to eat your cake and still have it.

While Article one of the 2 Constitution places sovereign power in the hands of Kenyans and Article 37 gives them the right to peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities, are all options exhausted?

While I understand the history you have had with some of our institutions, why don’t you focus on calling out your supporters to come out in large numbers and vote? This way, you will be reaffirming your faith in institutions and their ability to act honourably on behalf of Kenyans. The problem with relying on an individual without strengthening institutions is that when he is no more, dictators will bloom like the hyacinth weed.

The country has been at a standstill since June when the political temperatures hit fever pitch. Entrepreneurs in the informal sector that employs majority of Kenyans are in pain. In a country with staggering unemployment rates, fanning the political temperatures through protests will only hurt the poor. Business has been slow.

Anxiety now stands at an all-time high and the country seems to have hit a screeching halt because of politics. My prayer is that you don’t turn an already bad situation into a worst one. Pursue dialogue with IEBC, international community and Jubilee Party. Be the bigger man.

With the history of protests in this country where criminals infiltrate peaceful protestors to cause mayhem and loot, I don’t think it will be good for your image to go ahead with this. It will erode the goodwill you enjoy and cement your legacy as a war monger, just like your opponents want to have you portrayed. What will happen when thugs infiltrate your protests to loot from the public, harass women and cause mayhem? What about when cops respond by lethal force as they have been alleged to do when dealing with rioters? The question is, how will such scenes add to your efforts of clinging the presidency on 26th October?

While Jubilee has been having a field day branding you as unprepared, the immediate task at hand is to build the confidence of your supporters that you can win. I don’t know how much confidence they will have in the body after the protests. But above all, my worry is that sometimes we push for cosmetic reforms that barely remove a malignant tumour that afflicts this nation.

Just like we fought Issack Hassan and his team but left the secretariat intact, unless there is radical surgery in the electoral body, we would be doing the futile job of washing a pig, dressing it in a tuxedo, spending money in culinary skills only for it to see a pool of filth.

@DannishOdongo is a reporter with Capital FM and also the Chairman of the Political Leadership & Governance Programme Alumni Network. Views expressed here are his own.

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