How Cotu, Pusetu war lured Kenyans to Uhuru Park
NAIROBI, KENYA: The tension was palpable. After days of brinkmanship and threats between rival COTU and PUSETU unions, Thursday’s Labour Day celebrations wasn’t going to be routine. And the heavy presence of police- and MPs jostling for visibility- underlined the keen interest in the event.
Some at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, where the crowd was much bigger, confessed the thrill of the showdown had lured them to the function. The expected clash between the Central Organisation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Public Service Trade Unions of Kenya ( PUSETU) stoked an air of excitement and expectation.
But the threat by Pusetu to storm the park never came to pass. Police blocked them outside the park and inside COTU’s event went on without incident. PUSETU had threatened repeatedly that they would storm Uhuru Park and kick out COTU’s General Secretary Francis AtwoliÂ from the main dais and take over the celebration insisting that they are the “real” representative of workers. “I came to see how things would turn out.
I have been following the war of words between COTU and PuSETU with interest for the past several weeks,” said Stephen Musyoka from Nairobi Makongeni estate, as he smiled cheekily.
He added: “I didn’t expect any violenceÂ but I just wanted to see if there would be any scuffles as people try to fight for the dais.”
For Nelson Omolo, an unemployedÂ teenager from Nairobi’s Eastlands area, his presence at the celebration was to send a “strong signal” to PUSETU leaders and members that “Atwoli also has people who support him”
“I usually don’t come to Uhuru Park during Labour day celebration, but today I decided to show up to show those opposed to Atwoli that he has the numbers behind him. I have faith in Atwoli since he understands the suffering of ordinary people,” he claimed.