Raila to lead ODM in rallies over Ruto trial

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RailaThe Opposition has lined up rallies in Deputy President William Ruto’s Rift Valley stronghold to counter meetings by Jubilee in what promises to be an escalation of political rhetoric over the ICC trial saga.

The ODM brigade says their motivation is to dismantle what to them is propaganda and lies concerning the Deputy President’s case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the Jubilee Alliance has been using to gain political mileage since 2012.

Jubilee has held about half a dozen prayer rallies to intercede for Mr Ruto and his co-accused Mr Joshua arap Sang.

A provisional programme indicates that Kapsabet and Kericho will play host to the first round of meetings from next weekend, during which the party hopes to “explain itself directly to the people”.

Curiously, the party will skip Eldoret, Mr Ruto’s home town, in move that appears informed by the possibility of a hostile reception.

The Sunday Nation has established that the absence of ODM leader Raila Odinga, who is in a trip to South Korea, has held back the plan. Mr Odinga returns on Wednesday.

HOW RUTO WAS FIXED

Minority Leader in the National Assembly Jakoyo Midiwo, the main proponent of the idea, told the Sunday Nation that the rallies will help them explain their case to the people.

“We will go to the Rift Valley to explain to them how Ruto was fixed and by whom, and like they say, the truth shall then set us free,” Mr Midiwo offered.

“We will explain it to them that we are ready to testify in Ruto’s and Sang’s favour if that will help liberate them from the ICC chain. This we will do across the country beginning with Kalenjin-land,” the Gem lawmaker added.

The decision by the Opposition politicians will likely see parallel rallies with a real possibility of putting the country on a campaign mood, two years to the General Election expected in 2017.

The strategy, we learnt, is to try and pull the carpet on the ICC debate from under the Jubilee’s feet and hopefully use it against them, especially after Mr Kuria’s assertions that the DP’s fixers are indeed in government.

The Opposition party’s presence in the Rift Valley withered almost to the last supporter after the DP led the region into storming out with former executive director Magerer Lang’at being the last man to acrimoniously leave the Orange House last November. They therefore see this as an opportunity to endear themselves back to the large vote basket ahead of 2017.

The development comes as Presiding ICC Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji warned on Friday that the court was fully aware of attacks directed at it in these meetings and that these attacks would not affect decisions made by the court.

“Our attention has been drawn to the unending clamour in the Kenyan media about the proceedings in this case,” he stated, saying the apparent intention was to undermine the work of the judges and the authority of the court.

EPISODIC DEBATE

Debate around ICC has been as episodic as it has been emotive in a country that literally talks, sleeps, thinks and eats politics.

A ruling by the court on August 19 allowing the Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to use recanted evidence from witnesses against Mr Ruto and his co-accused triggered uproar in Rift Valley, prompting MPs in Mr Ruto’s URP to accuse their TNA counterparts of having left him to his own devices.

Politicians from the region who have skipped the rallies are treated as black sheep, with possible political backlash expected in 2017 as voters are likely to be incited against them.

ODM Party secretary-general Ababu Namwamba says any discussion and activities on the ICC they engage in now is meant to deny Jubilee a chance to use it as a rallying point in 2017, like they did in the last General Election.

“There have been too many lies, propaganda, fiction and little facts on the ICC talks and we want the truth to become manifest. And that truth is Jubilee misused the ICC mantra to gain political advantage in 2013, lying to the people that Mr Odinga and ODM fixed Mr Ruto,” he said.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that the Opposition will seek to persuade the masses, predominantly URP supporters, that being Mr Odinga’s deputy in the run-up to the 2007 elections, there was no way Mr Odinga could have fixed the DP since they were fighting on the same front against PNU’s Mwai Kibaki, then supported by Mr Kenyatta.

Siaya Senator and co-chair of Cord management committee James Orengo thinks that URP is beginning to see that their problems came from PNU, now TNA, and not ODM as they were meant to believe.

“Politics aside, you have also seen them reach out to the former Prime Minister (Mr Odinga) to help them because, much as they will not acknowledge it in public, they know he could not have played a role in fixing the DP. They chose The Hague route under the false hope that there would be no beginning to it and, in case there would be a beginning, at least there would be no end,” Mr Orengo said.

Ugunja MP Mr Opiyo Wandayi argues that the move is motivated by the need to deflate the ICC debate so as to focus the country’s agenda on the pressing issues.

“We want to refocus the country’s attention on the real issues after dismantling this narrative.

DOUBLE EDGED SWORD

The dwindling economy, runaway corruption, naked tribalism and skyrocketing poverty levels are things we want to make part of the agenda of things the country must talk about and give solutions to.”

University of Nairobi political scientist Dr Adams Oloo further argues that being the hip-bone that joins Mr Kenyatta and his deputy, ICC could also prove a double edged sword and become their point of departure.

“They have to carefully navigate through this lest it consumes their union,” he warns.

Observers will be watching how this pans out with Jubilee expected to hold a few more rallies although new reports obtained by the Sunday Nation indicate that even before Judge Osuji issued the warning, President Kenyatta had ordered a moratorium on the rallies in his coalition alarmed at how divisive they have become.

-nation.co.ke

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