Uhuru Park memo
It was refreshing to be in Nairobi and attending a public rally, something I had not done since I was here to vote in the referendum campaigns. Nairobi is a busy capital; I needed no further testimony of that as I boarded a Matatu to the CBD. Continuing my feel of the average mwananchi, I alighted at the Uhuru Highway-Haile Selassie junction to walk the rest of the way. A few people loittered around the City Council pond at Uhuru Park, but most people sat peacefully near the dais; waiting for the politicians to arrive. That was 9:47 a.m; I realized I had been a little too early. But I saw some of my friends in the press corps, so I moved towards them to play some catch-up. It's long since I penned down a story for anyone, so it was nice to be "refreshed" on what is cutting in some of the Kenyan media houses. Still, no politician had arrived, but the crowd was swelling. I saw CNN's Jeff Koinange (in a red top) take a lengthy call on his phone while strolling towards one of the "valleys" at the park, just at the same time as Raila and company walked up the path that links the dais and the City Council pond. A section of the crowd that had already began pressing the police near All Saints retreated when they heard Raila had arrived; the crowd rushed back to the dais.
Raila is not loved and hated for nothing; the man could barely move. Besides him were Linah Jebii Kilimo, Ochillo Ayacko, Anyang' Nyong'o, Nick Salat, William Ruto, Kalonzo Musyoka and others but everyone in the crowd wanted to touch him - Raila. Security guards cleared the way for members of the press corp to take shots of Raila and his group, but that was still a struggle to say the least. The crowd stood still, shouting in a frenzy that "Michuki must go" as the politicians waited for the public address system to be brought. In a short while, a while Land Rover pulled by; the politicians went atop it as the crowds and journalists jostled to get a better view of the action. It was Raila outlining the streets and avenues the procession would take; no violence or looting, he stressed. PPO Mwangi King'ori came by and passed on some message to the politicians above the din of some in the crowd that were asking if he was a snake or not. He didn't seem to be armed and neither was he harmed; though his guards whisked him away a little too fast.
I couldn't secure an interview with anyone of the politicians as they led the crowd along Kenyatta Avenue, pushing for space so that they themselves could breath. When we got near Nyayp House, someone in the press corp shouted there could be some news behind us and as sure as that could be, we saw Linah struggling to catch up with the rest of the politicians; it wasn't clear what had held her back, but the procession now moved on. At Teleposta, the crowd stopped again, as some requested passengers to join them in the protests; some did, others didn't. Negotiating one's way to Bunge then Harambee House was proving difficult as more folks joined the procession; I had to leave my media colleagues, make my way via Holy family Basillica and jump over its fence with other wananchi so as to catch up with the crowd on its way past Bunge. Faithfuls and a few nuns at the Basillica gate watched us in amazement, as the guards shut the gates behind us to block others who had been keen to follow us. I got to Harambee just in good time; the politicians had began speaking. Activities around town had come to a standstill as civil servants and pedestrians strove to keep up with the action; the former watched through windows as others stood at their verandas. Policemen lining the procession paths and defending government buildings and installations were most peaceful; I shook the hand of one who transferred his rungu and ngao to his left hand to greet me "properly." Raila, Ruto, Linah and Kalonzo (I don't recall anyone else speaking at this point) called for Michuki to resign as the crowd roared along. The journey along Harambee Avenue on our way back to Uhuru Park was punctuated with catcalls near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs....the victim this time round was....you guessed it, Tuju. "Alipata 850 Ramba mwaka jana, tutampa sufuri akijaribu next year," a youngman shouted besides me. Others took up the call. The journey to Uhuru Park was uneventful, save for near the Intercon when some fellow shouted obscenities at Raila who had already passed the place. Well, well...thank the crowds again....they nearly stormed the place to lynch the fellow who had by then taken refuge there....but calmly walked on when some ODM activists urged them to achane naye. I asked NTV's Robert Nangila if he could let me give him a soundbyte for the incident (:-) but akasema cameraman wake alikuwa ashaenda na wanasiasa. Uhuru Park was, for kitu 15 minutes, a mess as everyone tried to be near the press corps (you know why). Eventually Reuben Ndolo got the increasingly large crowd (bigger than the one that had began the maandamano a few minutes before) to relax and listen to the politicians. - There was this mhindi....sijui jina lake...but he spoke well...nasikia yeye ndiye dawa ya Mwenje huko Embakasi 2007. - Ntimama was witty...he struck a chord with the crowd when he said "Kibaki toka" instead of "Kibaki tosha." But that Nkaisserry was allowed to speak for much longer perhaps indicates a shift in Maasai politics. The last time I went to Narok, I learnt that Ntimama does not intend to run next year. So maybe - just maybe - Nkaissery might take that mantle. A youngman I helped campaign for in Kajiado South might not make it back if he isn't too careful with his constituents....because they are no longer with the people he is supporting in govt....Enough of the Maasai politics. - Gumo worked the crowd....... - Nyong'o steered clear of Anglo Leasing..... - Ayacko blasted Ndingi, Mutava and Nzimbi for boot-licking the powers-that-be. - Magara was the youth's hero....and he worked them too....Nyachae definitely has some homework to do in Gusiiland. There were others...but I must end now.... - Linah acted the mother...and she got away with it..the crowds adored her; "Mama Chungwa" - they shouted. - Ruto was in his element; no one could have spoken for the media any better than he did, not even the Standard Group's lawyer (Otiendo Ommollo) and the embattled KUJ Chairman Tervil Okoko could beat him at it. Ruto was a darling of the crowd. Same thing with George Khaniri. Mudavadi also did well with the speechwork, bemoaning the "unknown" chains of command in the country's security apparatus. - Kalonzo proclaimed something he said would, from now onwards, be known as Press Freedom Day. But he appeard apprehensive and somehow brow-beaten as he ploughed through his remarks. As he spoke, the young men and women around me were asking him to state whether or not he had met the President in secret. I don't know, but the mixed signals in the crowd appeard to be taking some confidence away from him. He led the crowd in a half-hearted backing of Ali in his "wars" with Michuki and his boys in the police force, apart from "forgiving" him for the referendum Kisumu and Likoni deaths. I don't know again, but I think that might haunt him some day. - Raila sounded like Cozy Aquino and the Filipino crowds in 1986...his remarks were classic anti-govt rhetoric. He repeated his remarks about the "foreign" merceneries that reportedly led the raids on the Standard Group. He also said he won't obey the police's summons for him to write a statement with them over that. By that time Jeff Koinange had moved closer to the politicians. I think he was among those the press corps who asked that both Kalonzo and Raila repeat their remarks in English for a wider audience.
I left the place certain that way beyond the Standard Group and, by extension, the rest of the media, the day's biggest winner had been the ODM. Public opinion is with the ODM; Michuki gave them that gift at a crucial time. It will be interesting to see how Kibaki fights to re-claim his place in the hearts and minds of Kenyans.
I had better leave now: I'll let the pro and anti-govt editors do their spinning in their evening broadcasts and kesho's dailies:-) It was good to be here at this time, witnessing these small bits of history unfolding. Nitarudi kupiga kura yangu baadaye. And I'll cover any protest in future if I can, be it pro or anti-govt.
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