National Super Alliance (Nasa) opposition leader Raila Odinga is certainly keeping himself in the media spotlight with calls for a boycott of allegedly pro-government businesses, the announcement that he wants to set up a ‘People’s Assembly’ to somehow restore democracy in Kenya, and a clarion all (yet again) for a ‘Million Man’ march in support of his campaign. But has Odinga miscalculated… yet again?
Raila Odinga is seen by many as a veteran political tactician and in terms of media coverage and maintaining his position as the leader of changing political coalitions he certainly has been. It could be argued, however, that his history is largely one of failure and miscalculation. His most recent manoeuvrings seem to reinforce this view.
ODINGA – PULLING OUT OF THE RACE
Kenya’s election of 26 October, even though the result was overturned by the Supreme Court, still saw Odinga defeated, losing to Uhuru Kenyatta by a margin of over 1.4 million votes. The administration of the election may have been flawed but that did not change the fundamental electoral numbers that would have remotely led to an Odinga victory.
Come the election re-run Odinga dropped out of the race, almost certainly knowing that he could not win the ‘free and fair’ election he was calling for.
The Odinga team’s thinking was that by pulling out of the election it would just leave Kenyatta’s name on the ballot paper and thereby totally undermine the legitimacy of the ‘result’, the coronation of President Kenyatta.
The day after his withdrawal from the presidential race, Odinga heard the news that a High Court had ruled that as the election of 26 October was a re-run of the August election, not a second round, the names of all the original candidates from the first poll would remain on the ballot paper.
With few funds to run a second campaign, the electoral numbers (read ‘tribal numbers’) against him, and his opponents better organised and better funded, Odinga again knew that not only that he would lose the election but also that Kenyatta would be victorious in an election that had at least the veneer of legitimacy.
ODINGA’S ELECTION BOYCOTT
So the Nasa leader called fro a boycott of the election by his supporters assisted by Masa campaigners turning up to many polling stations come polling day to, how shall we call it, persuade voters that they might like to ‘heed’ the call not to vote.
Despite the fact that many Jubilee supporters knew their man was sure to win, despite the mass campaign of intimidation, and even despite heavy rainfall in many parts of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta’s supports turned out in sufficient numbers to register over 7.4 million votes, still more than Odinga had polled in the August election.
How did the great Odinga surmount this problem? Simple: deny the figures, just claim that only 2.5 million people voted; call for new ‘free and fair elections (i.e. an election in which Odinga wins); and start a new campaign or two to keep opponents both external and internal, on the hop.
Raila Odinga’s Campaign Number 1 – Announce the formation of the National Resistance Movement wing of Nasa with a cute little logo of a clenched first bursting out T-shirts, seemingly aiming straight into your face. Actually, perhaps that was appropriate and summed up what ‘resistance’ really meant in this context.
(Journalist Sekou Tiure Otondi argued in The East African that the formation of the ‘resistance’ could be good for Kenya democracy. The Kenya Forum’s advice to Mr Otondi and our readers in general, is to look at the videos of the ‘Men in Black’ kicking the ballot boxes to pieces at ODM’s internal elections in February 2014. That gives a more accurate view of Mr Odinga’s supporters’ attitude when faced by electoral defeat.)
Raila Odinga’s Campaign Number 2 – Announce the formation of a ‘People’s Assembly to restore freedom and democracy in Kenya, an Assembly made up of politicians, civil society activists and others, i.e., constituted of people who support Odinga and thereby avoid the need to to get involved in the tiresome business of actually winning an election.
Raila Odinga’s Campaign Number 3 – Call for a boycott of businesses deemed to be supportive of Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee alliance, including the mighty Safaricom accused of conspiring with Kenyatta’s Jubilee to rig the election. Now watch for all those Safaricom users to switch to say, Airtel. Well, actually, don’t wait, Safaricom run the Mpesa platform for the mobile transfer of money used daily by multi-millions of Kenyans, Airtel do not.
(Here again, another slight problem. Nasa Governors have also stressed their concern that a business boycott could have an adverse effect on Kenya’s economy that has already suffered great damage because of the civil disturbances arising from the election campaigns. They, and others, are also worried that the’ boycott’ will be an excuse for yet more thuggery and looting)
Raila Odinga’s Campaign Number 4 – Call for a ‘Million Man’ march in support of all his other campaigns. This would require Mr Odinga turning out one-in-six of his voting support (based on the August election result) to turn up in Nairobi, just as he called for a ‘Million Man’ demonstration following the disputed 2007 elections – which didn’t happen.
HEALING KENYA… NOT ‘HEEDING’ ODINGA
Kenya needs healing after the elections. The peoples of Western Kenya need effective political leadership. The governance of Kenya would be all the better for a strong and effective political opposition operating within the rule of law.
Raila Odinga’s campaigns will not achieve this. Unfortunately his campaigns are a mistake, both for the communities he claims to represent and for Kenya as a whole.