By Issa Hussein firstname.lastname@example.org Posted Friday, January 28 2011 at 21:00
- Official line takes back seat as local and national politics occupies centre stage, with supporters of MPs Maalim and Duale clashing
The stated purpose of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s visit to North Eastern Province was to tour development projects and outline government measures to deal with the drought that has hit the area.
But the official line took a back seat on Tuesday as local and national politics occupied centre stage, with supporters of MPs Farah Maalim (Lagdera) and Aden Duale (Dujis) nearly coming to blows at two venues in Garissa.
The political heat that has seen the PM come under symbolic siege from his erstwhile allies over the past month combined with the politics of the province to make Day Two of his visit there memorable.
Both Mr Duale and Mr Maalim are in the Prime Minister’s Orange Democratic Movement but Mr Duale is aligned to the breakaway group led by deputy party leader and Eldoret North MP William Ruto.
Contest senatorial seat
At the local level, Mr Maalim is said to be among leaders who want to contest the senatorial seat for the greater Garissa in the 2012 General Election.
Unlike in other events where local leaders are allowed to make speeches before the one perceived to be the most senior or the host introduces him, the Prime Minister was the only one who spoke.
The PM was at one point forced to look on as youths waving placards and shouting slogans, with Mr Duale remonstrating with Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’.
In the chaos and confusion that followed, neither of the two dueling MPs addressed the crowd, which had to be subdued by the police.
Unlike other MPs in Mr Ruto’s political camp such as Mandera East MP Mohamed Hussein, Mr Duale chose to attend the rallies. Signs that there would be trouble were visible a few minutes before the plane carrying the PM landed, with tension escalating after rumour went round that Mr Duale would not be allowed to address the crowd.
Youths allied to the area MP swiftly made banners and placards reading “Duale is our MP” and “Our leaders should not be undermined”. By the time the PM landed, they had placed themselves behind the reception party and were waving the banners.
The drama continued at Almond Hotel in the town when area provincial commissioner James ole Serian asked Mr Maalim, the Deputy Speaker, to introduce and invite the rest of the leaders.
The meeting had been organised for the PM to meet youth and religious leaders.
It was interrupted by the youths, who protested against Mr Duale’s exclusion, who they reckoned should have been the one to make the introductions and welcome the PM as the host MP.
They shouted: “Duale haja kufa (Duale is not dead), he is the sitting MP, Farah is not our MP.’’ They shouted the PC down and nearly disrupted the meeting.
Mr Odinga was forced to address them, and they only calmed down after his assurances that he would be the only one to speak. But the situation deteriorated at the public baraza that followed at Garissa Primary School, with more banners that read “Duale is our MP come 2012, respect him. Don’t undermine him.”
At one point, the angry Dujis MP, who came to the dais some minutes before the PM, could be heard telling Mr Kajwang’ that he should be respected as the area MP.
As Mr Odinga came to the dais, the situation got out of hand, with youths from the two MPs’ camps nearly clashing, with police moving in to beat away and attempt to tame the unruly crowd.
The PM intervened, saying he was not in town for a political rally but with goodies and other measures to deal with the drought.