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Thursday, August 28, 2014
Is Cord's Push All About Signatures?
CORD members Anyang Nyong'o,Johnstone Muthama,Moses Wetangula and Raila Odinga address the media after a joint CORD parliamentary group meeting where they unanimously endorsed the proposed national referendum at the Boma hotel. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE
Leaders at the Okoa Kenya referendum push launch by Cord at Ufungamano House in Nairobi. Photo/Courtesy
In January 2011, I coordinated a signature collection initiative that sought one million signatures from Kenyans who wanted the ICC process to continue, because Parliament wanted to stop it. Our exercise was based on five clear reasons. One; that the process was Kenya’s best chance of getting to the truth about the 2007-08 post-election violence. Two; that the truth that would come out of the process would mitigate against ethnic narratives that justified election-related violence. Three; that the process would start Kenyans on a journey of seeking justice for victims of all post-election cases up to that point. Four; that Kenya's judicial processes were not able, ready or willing to investigate and prosecute election-related violence incidences. Five; that the process had been initiated by Parliament and it needed to proceed to a logical conclusion.
Despite the fact that this exercise was not popular in certain parts of the country, we did not leave the reasons vague so as to allow respective collecting initiatives to present them in the most favourable context. We also did not stretch them to accommodate other issues of the day. Every Kenyan who signed the 'Yes to ICC' petition; and over one million Kenyans did so across the country and in the Diaspora; did so as a sign that they agreed with the five clear and precise reasons above. It did not matter whether one signed via SMS; email, on social media or on a hardcopy; you did it for these five reasons. Our advertisements gave these five precise reasons. One signed, or refused to sign; on the basis of these five clear reasons.
Compare that exercise, with the one that Cord launched this week. Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka stated that they want Kenyans to sign 'in order to boost security, increase revenues to counties, bring electoral reforms, open up government procurement and appointments, and shore up the powers of the constitutional commissions. The head of their technical committee says they 'have followed Article 257 and provided general suggestions of the draft'. Essentially Cord is telling Kenyans to 'sign up; we will formulate the specific reasons you signed as we go along'.
Why would Cord come up with a process that is this vague? Could it be that they do not actually need a referendum after all?
The reality is that once a Kenyan signs under a blank sheet, Cord can formulate a petition, bill or question that says whatever serves the interests of its leaders. The petition could state that those who have signed have no confidence in the Jubilee government and want it removed through whatever means. Or, that those who have signed confirm that Cord won the March 4, 2013 general election and was cheated of victory. Or, that the signatures are a vote of no-confidence in the Jubilee government. In Cord, ODM could insist that the signatures confirm that Raila Odinga is the most suitable presidential candidate for the next elections.
If Cord gets five (or maybe seven) million signatures, they get a renewed platform to agitate against the Jubilee government. Raila also gets a mandate to present himself, locally and internationally, as the ‘voice’ of 'five million Kenyans'. Cord’s recent behaviour also indicates that such signatures can be presented as five million Kenyans who recognise Raila as their leader, not Uhuru Kenyatta. With seven million signatures, Cord could even claim this proves that they won the last elections! Am I ‘hating’? No. This week I learnt that Peter Kenneth was invited to the ‘Okoa Kenya’ launch at Ufungamano House under the pretence that it was a consultative forum on how to proceed on the issue of national dialogue. He has now been presented as a prominent member of an initiative that he does not subscribe to.
Finally, if Cord claims it has five million signatures, it does not matter whether the referendum push ends up collapsing; they will have ‘credibility’ for their message. If the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission dares to say the signatures are not genuine, Cord can always claim the IEBC cannot be trusted. If 24 county assemblies and or Parliament fail to pass their bill, Cord, which has set the stage with public statements on the power of the 'sovereign will' of the Kenyan people, can insist that a ‘Yes’ by five million Kenyans cannot be overturned by a 'No' from a 'mere thousand MCAs’ or ‘one or two hundred MPs’. Cord can then decide to mobilise mass action, and claim to be exercising the sovereign will of Kenyans, 'directly'.
I hope am just being alarmist. However in any other circumstance, it would be considered fraudulent to ask someone to sign a document whose agenda is unclear. Kenyans, including Cord's supporters, must therefore insist that Cord first develops a precise petition, a clear referendum question, or a well defined bill; before they ask the public to append their signatures.
Ngunjiri is the executive director of Change Associates; a political communications consultancy.
- See more at: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/article-186168/cords-push-all-about-signatures#sthash.AiuWw96y.dpuf