A month to a must-win General Election, many were concerned the National Super Alliance (Nasa) had published two rival manifestos. Four months after a lost election, Nasa still worries many faithful because its top brass do not see eye to eye on myriad issues.
As the attention of election-weary Kenyans turned to the pending swearing-in of President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta, second tier leaders dropped a bombshell: Mr Raila Odinga, too, would be sworn in as the “people’s president” at a parallel fete.
There was no immediate official confirmation of this high-risk plan. Then, on November 25, news broke that Mr Odinga had rejected the investiture because it would hurt his national stature, international image and status as a respecter of the rule of law.
Mr Odinga does not normally describe himself this pompously. These words may belong to the moderates, the pro-dialogue insider interests keen to steer policy away from confrontation and revolutionaries. Three days later all changed.
Mr Odinga obliged supporters demanding his swearing-in. Declaring he was no coward, he vowed he would be sworn in by Nasa’s People’s Assembly on Independence Day, December 12, because he, and not Mr Kenyatta, won the August 8 presidential poll.
Tension hit breaking point. Top security organs weighed the nuclear option of arresting him; fearing imminent violence, foreign envoys weighed in; and Attorney-General Githu Muigai warned that a rival swearing-in was akin to treason, which carries a death sentence.
Raila stood firm. He said he was ready to pay the price. At the eleventh hour all changed. Nasa co-principal Musalia Mudavadi announced the investiture had been postponed. Mr Odinga did not show up to address this abrupt change.
Rewind back to August. Before the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) confirmed Mr Kenyatta winner of the presidential poll, Nasa had declared Mr Odinga the victor. First Nasa said it would not go to court, then, changed its mind and petitioned the result.
Litigation was a win for the moderates who opposed mass action, the weapon of choice for the radicals. The moderates again prevailed in the fight over whether or not to swear in Mr Odinga.
Nobody captured the frustration of Nasa’s radicals better than lawyer Miguna Miguna. He demanded that Nasa delinks from its civil disobedience arm, National Resistance Movement (NRM), to seek dialogue while NRM pursues revolution.
But on Monday the Supreme Court embarrassed Nasa and moderates and revolutionaries alike. It averred that Mr Odinga’s withdrawal from the October 26 repeat presidential poll effectively handed victory to President Kenyatta.
The justices said the withdrawal could not have occasioned cancellation of the poll nor could the court have forced one to participate in an exercise against one’s will. Yes, Mr Odinga’s withdrawal was an act of self-immolation.
The court also ruled that while Mr Odinga publicly announced his withdrawal from the election and notified IEBC by letter, he failed to fill in a specific compulsory legal document. Legally, then, Mr Odinga did not quit the race.
Armed with hindsight let’s revisit October 26. Per IEBC, the President won the August 8 presidential poll, garnering 8.2 million votes to Mr Odinga’s 6.7 million. Per Nasa, Mr Odinga won, accumulating 8,041,726 votes to the President’s 7,755,428. Petitioning the result was, therefore, the right thing to do. That the Supreme Court annulled President Kenyatta’s victory on account of illegalities and irregularities committed by IEBC and ordered a re-run was a godsend and vindication.
Although President Kenyatta remains bitter, holding that he won the election but the Supreme Court stole his vote, he participated in the re-run. Nasa boycotted the poll altogether because, they said, IEBC would rig it any way.
Locked out, they now plotted to use such fearsome strategies as a parallel investiture and secessionist demands, to cause political and or constitutional crises upon which they would ride into negotiations before power. That’s a Sisyphean operation.
The easier option was to mobilise the base to a person to vote to a person and shame IEBC. It is immaterial whether it was the hardliners or moderates who forced the boycott. A chance to ensure Baba’s votes would be weighed and not counted was spurned rather than owned.
Back to square one. Nasa went into the General Election divided against, and fighting, itself. Beaten and divided still it must redefine and rebrand itself beyond and better than RESIST. Yes, the failure of the investiture could have hardened government against post-poll talks!
Opanga is a commentator with a bias for politics [email protected]