Long walk to liberation? Odinga leads march against perceived state overreach

November 17, 2017 8:08 pm
Raila Odinga’s supporters march alongside his convoy/COURTESY

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 17- Who said Kenya is a walking nation?

He could have been right.

For more than 30 kilometers, thousands of Raila Odinga followers, Kenya’s opposition chief, walked from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Likoni road, Jogoo road and eventually used Haile Sellasie to get to Upper Hill, where he addressed them.

It was a long walk.

The leaders, however, were in their fuel guzzlers, but that did not dampen the spirit of Odinga’s supporters, men, and women, who fondly refer him as Baba (Father).

“Baba, Baba, Baba…” youths would be heard chanting, as they make long Maasai jumps.

– Outside the Airport –

Just like it will be the case in heaven, not everyone managed to get to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, to welcome Odinga.

A few leaders, mostly elected politicians were permitted but police dispersed hundreds of supporters who also demanded to go and meet their leader.

“This is an international airport and we cannot allow everyone to get inside,” one of the senior officers manning the airport’s entry said.

That wasn’t the end for the witty youths, who after bringing their heads together, decided to go to the fence of the airport, where the runaway is located, and maybe get a glimpse of the plane carrying the opposition chief.

But how and many planes were landing?

They were seen by the hawk eye of police and again, they were dispersed.

Any plane landing, was received with cheers.

“That must be baba…” they could be heard saying.

A bigger one would land and again they would say “Baba cannot come with a small plane…. he is in this one.”

– Injured motorists, vehicles destroyed –

Police decided to push the crowd further from the airport, East Africa’s largest and busiest, but they were not amused.

They turned their anger on motorists by hurling stones and in the process injuring four, who were rushed to a nearby hospital.

Tens of vehicles, including of police and media had their windscreens smashed, like that of Abel Nyakundi, 26, who was taking a client to the airport.

The client had to walk to the airport, fearing he would miss the flight and still his safety had been compromised.

It was so fast, that crying Nyakundi said, “he did not even pay for the fuel used.”

How will I pay for this car?” A wailing Nyakundi asked during an interview with Capital News.

He is to offset a loan of Sh350,000.

“Why is this happening? Please tell them to help me,” the 26-year-old, and a father of three said.

He is the sole provider for his family and ailing mother.

– Tear gassed but determined –

Odinga’s motorcade eventually snaked out of the airport, and to avoid the heavy traffic towards the City, up to Imara Daima estate, they used the wrong side of the highway.

Oncoming traffic was forced to park beside the road, to allow the motorcade to move with ease.

The massive crowd poured on the highway, and that is where the more than 30 kilometers walk started.

Despite the scorching sun, teargas, and distance, they marched with resilience, just like it was the case for the children of Israel, as they marched from Egypt to Canaan, a tale narrated in the Bible not everyone made it to the Central Business District.

– The epitome of drama –

The epitome of drama was at the City Stadium roundabout, where already a huge crowd, bigger than the one that left airport had joined the motorcade.

But then police lobbed teargas at them.

For a minute, police overpowered the crowd, they ran helter-skelter, as water cannons ‘washed their sins’.

The leaders who holed up in their vehicles, however, did not move; they remained still.

Several had their windscreens smashed by the tear gas canisters.

Before police realised, the crowd regrouped and this time they were determined, not the tear gas, water cannons or the live bullets fire in the air scared them.

They hurled stones at police as they advanced towards their direction. Police retreated and the first hurdle was over.

“uua, uua (kill, kill),” the charged youths shouted at the police.

Others said, “They cannot kill all of us.”

– Haile Selassie Avenue, final hurdle –

A hail of live bullets were fired at the Haile Sellasie Avenue to scare away the supporters, and though they managed to pass, they did not go to Uhuru Park.

They were repulsed at the entrance of Uhuru Park.

Final destination was Upper Hill, where Odinga made a brief statement.

“We want to thank all the people of Kenya who turned out at the airport to receive me; youths have ran from the airport up to here,” he said.

“I have come to tell you that the time for the third liberation has come.”

He finished by asking his supporters to tell his competitor and incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta “bye, bye.”


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