By Alex Ndegwa and Martin Mutua
The 'Yes' team began rolling down the curtain on its campaign for the Proposed Constitution with a message of hope and optimism over Kenya's future — then rested its case.
Like lead defence lawyers in a courtroom prosecuting the case of their lives, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga gave their final submissions, and left the rest to the voter’s verdict on Wednesday. They also, like football coaches and captains, ahead of major tournaments, declared their teams were prepared and victory was at the doorstep.
"On August 4 we should come out and vote and on August 5 we celebrate because we shall have won. We are moving in one direction and there is no need for anyone to take us backwards,’’ said President Kibaki.
On the day ‘Yes’ painted the historic Uhuru Park Grounds green, Raila declared: "It has been a long journey; many have died; many have been disabled; others have been orphaned and those of us who are lucky to be here have a duty to pitch the flag on top of the mountain. This will be a new Kenya to be born on August 5."
Raila, who was on his second day of campaigning after hospitalisation and rest to allow faster recuperation, added: "When I see this crowd I feel like I have been reborn. I thank you for your prayers because those are what made God to heal me. I also thank my colleagues for uniting when I was down. The campaigns they led when I was down made me get well quickly."
Foreign Minister Moses Wetang’ula said: "We started here on this same ground and the time has now come for Khumundu Khumundu, Ng’ato gi Ng’ato (man to man) on August 4 where we have to come out in large numbers and vote ‘Yes’"
Other speakers capped what seems to be ‘Yes’ team’s premature and yet euphoric victory party asked the President declare August 5 a national holiday to allow them celebrate the victory they anticipate.
The rally, which followed Saturday’s rally in Kisumu, progressed as the ‘No’ team led by Higher Education Minister William Ruto and a team of Church leaders, led the ‘Reds’ in resting their case against the Proposed Constitution at Dagoretti Grounds.
At Uhuru Park, Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey declared there was a tidal wave sweeping across the country, and beseeched members of his community to strive to be on the ‘right side of history’. "On August 4 a new Kenya is set to be born; one that all Kenyans will be happy to be in. I am pleading with people from my community in Rift Valley to open their eyes and see how Kenya is going and ensure they are on the right side of history,’’ he said.
On Monday ‘Yes’ women groups are expected to march on the streets in Nairobi and end up at Uhuru Park, while Kibaki and Raila have two main rallies — one in Kitui Central and another at Kiambu’s Kirigiti Stadium.
The two shows will mark the end of ‘Yes’ campaign, because on Monday is the last day provided for lobbying.
Kibaki, who spoke last, made a brief statement, but it was Raila who tickled the rally, when he analogously compared the masses who flocked there as an army of safari ants that crawled over the serpent that had wrapped itself around a bird’s eggs — forcing it to wriggle away.
Similarly, he urged Kenya’s provincial blocs to team up and defeat the forces opposed to the draft law.
The PM who appeared back in his element punctuated his speech with his traditional campaign football imagery in which he referred to Kibaki — who led the campaign while he was recuperating as (Andres) Iniesta, the Spanish midfielder who scored the winning goal in 2010 World Cup finals.
Saying the President was playing ‘number nine’ in the pitch, he himself was the other world champion player (Cesc) Fabregas, playing position 10.
The crowd was kept on the edge throughout by blistering speeches from tough-speaking ‘Yes’ ministers like Mr Kiraitu Murungi, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, Mr James Orengo, Dr Sally Kosgei, Mr John Munyes, Mr John Michuki, as well as Cotu’s Francis Atwoli and a coterie of Assistant Ministers.
In Raila’s imaginary football line-up, Kibaki who is leading the ‘Yes’ team, scored the winning goal while Water Minister Charity Ngilu saved a dangerous shot by Ruto.
Spurred on by blaring vuvuzelas, Raila told the crowd to end the country’s long chase for a new constitution. Kosgey advised his community to look keenly at the direction the country was taking, and see for themselves the imprudence of standing alone in the way of a tidal wave, that has been building, and which is set to hand ‘Yes’ a resounding victory.
Also from Rift Valley Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama said the momentum ‘Yes’ had set was attributable to President Kibaki’s taking over of the captaincy while Raila was recuperating.
Like those who spoke before him, Ntimama drew the picture of a nation painted green and which, in his words, would wake up reborn on August 5, when the results are expected to be out.
It must have been the picture of intrigue and reversed fortunes as the top three leaders who fought each other for the top seat in 2007 — Kibaki, Raila and Kalonzo — shared one platform, fought behind one cause and preached a message of peace and change.
In place of their different party colours, like a family in communion, the Grand Coalition partners stood out in green as Raila declared a new Republic was about to be born. It was a show of might as Kibaki and Raila returned to where they had unveiled the ‘Yes’ campaign on May 16.
They hoped to fire up historical symbolism associated with the venue, including Independence Day. The President thanked Kenyans for the reception they had accorded ‘Yes’ throughout the country, signaling victory was within sight and "there is no point in anyone taking us back."
Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi led a one-minute silence in memory of six people killed at the venue, following a grenade attack at a ‘No’ prayer meeting on June 13.