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Cablegate: Pm Odinga Receives Hero's Welcome in Homecoming - But

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PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHNR #1320/01 1440531
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 230531Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5882
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0091
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 5980
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 5274
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2817
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 2052
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2822
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2745
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAIROBI 001320

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KDEM KE
SUBJECT: PM ODINGA RECEIVES HERO'S WELCOME IN HOMECOMING - BUT
SUPPORTERS VOICE DOUBTS ABOUT GRAND COALITION

--------
Summary:
--------

1. Prime Minister Raila Odinga received a hero's welcome from a
crowd of over 300,000 at a home coming in his native Nyanza
province. American flags were spotted amidst the excited crowd. He
had a difficult time convincing his supporters that his Orange
Democratic Movement (ODM) party was an equal partner in the new
government, however. While Raila urged his supporters to forgive
past injustices and move on, they in turn implored him to settle for
nothing less than the presidency, as the tribes of western Kenya had
yet to reach "The Promised Land" of unfettered national rule. The
ODM and the Party of National Unity (PNU) will need to work harder
to ensure that Kenya's political future cannot rely on a "winner-
takes-all system". End summary.

----------------------------------------
Welcome Home: Hero, Leader and Brave Son
----------------------------------------

2. On May 10, more than 300,000 Kenyans congregated at the Kisumu
Municipal Stadium to welcome their native son who arrived in a Kenya
Air Force plane (previously preserved for the exclusive use of the
President of Kenya). Jubilant residents lined up on the streets to
witness the VIP convoy led by an elaborate police escort to a
meeting arranged at the Tom Mboya Labor College, where the Prime
Minister was expected to have a town hall meeting with local
business, civic, grassroots party and religious leadership. This
event did not fully materialize apart from the hurried
introductions, because of the impatience of the huge gathering
awaiting Raila at the stadium.

3. On May 11, Raila attended a memorial service for his father,
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, considered the doyen of opposition politics
in Kenya, at the family home in Nyamira, about 50 miles west of
Kisumu. (Note: Raila's older brother, Bondo MP Oburu Odinga, has
inherited the family homestead. End note.) Later in the day, another
huge rally was held at the neighboring Bondo Teachers' Training
Centre where religious and tribal elders from the ethnic Luo, the
Kalenjin, Kisii, Maasai, and Luyia communities attended. Civic and
parliamentary representatives, a good number of whom are now in the
coalition cabinet, were introduced to the crowd.

-----------------------------
Raila Defends Grand Coalition
-----------------------------

4. At the Kisumu rally, Raila explained to his supporters that he
entered into a coalition agreement with President Kibaki's PNU to
avert the destruction of the country. Telling his audience that it
is better to live to fight another day, Raila discouraged ODM MPs
seeking to form an opposition, saying that would weaken his position
in the coalition. Raila promised that the new coalition government
would deliver on constitutional and economic reform. He explained
that a number of ODM-led ministries (Roads, Health, Water,
Communication, Industrialization) would be critical in bringing
development to traditionally neglected regions.

5. In a public gesture of inter-ethnic cooperation Raila officiated
at the launch of Equity Bank branch office at Bondo. The bank is
expected to dispense credit to empower impoverished and neglected
women and youth groups in the area, due to their association with
what successive governments have considered to be an "opposition
zone". (Note: This bank is owned by prominent ethnic Kikuyu
businessmen. This is significant given the mistrust between Raila's
ethnic Luo and Kibaki's ethnic Kikuyu communities. End Note.)

6. Other leaders reinforced Odinga's line that the power-sharing
deal is real, reform will happen, but hard work lies ahead. Lands
Minister James Orengo noted that Raila now has real power, noting
that the Kenya police (notorious for arbitrarily arresting him on
numerous occasions), were now serving and saluting Raila and
according him VIP treatment. Agriculture Minister William Ruto
acknowledged to the restive crowd that the prices of food commodity
prices were high requested one year to sort the mess out. When
Ruto's appeal for patience fell flat, he retreated to defensive
rhetoric, demanding the police release from custody the suspects who
were arrested for allegedly causing death and violence in the
post-election period. Ruto argued that if it was not for the gallant
efforts of the arrested youth, ODM could not be boasting of power
sharing now. Other speakers at the event included several cabinet

NAIROBI 00001320 002 OF 002


ministers. National Assembly Speaker Peter Marende who avoided hot
political issues, promised the speedy enactment of a new
constitution, as promised by ODM in the run up to the 2007
Election.

-----------------------------------
Other Leaders Play To Crowd's Fears
-----------------------------------

7. Still the prevailing mood of the weekend was one of mistrust, and
other ODM leaders voiced their resentment over the coalition
agreement. Elizabeth Ongoro, a Luo MP from Nairobi, described
PNU-ODM power sharing deal using a Luo parable of a snake entering a
milk gourd just as the mother is preparing to feed the milk to her
children. Breaking the container, she said, would waste badly needed
food. Another MP described the arrangement as being forced to share
a goat dinner with the thief who stole it. (Note: The theme of the
perceived PNU theft of the election recurred through the weekend.
End Note.)

----------------------------
Kudos To USA and Kofi Annan;
Two Thumbs Down For Uganda
----------------------------

8. At Bondo, Raila's birth place, support for the U.S. role in the
recent election crisis was on display literally. At the dais were
three five-foot portraits of Kofi Annan, President George Bush and
Odinga, a tribute that POL FSN was told was to honor the
unforgettable support the United States Embassy and Kofi Annan gave
to Raila and the reconciliation process.

9. The role of other outside players, however, was not viewed as
favorably. The Bondo crowd cut short Tanzanian Minister Magufuli's
speech calling for strengthening of the East African Federation when
he suggested greater cooperation with Uganda. (Note: Ugandan
President Museveni is viewed with mistrust and suspicion by ODM
supporters, particularly after his warm welcome of Kibaki's victory
at the height of the post election crisis. Septel. End Note.)


-------
Comment
-------

10. Raila's home coming showed that he enjoys great popularity, but
many Western Kenyans still harbor anger over the disputed election
and place little faith in the prospects of a successful coalition
government. The notable exception to this sentiment appears to lie
with the (predominantly South Asian), business community that has a
large financial stake in Kisumu and its environs. Rebuilding Western
Kenya's economy will require good relations with the coalition
government, and powerful businessmen were visibly networking with
government officials all the weekend.

11. To win over ODM grassroots supporters, however, Raila and his
PNU coalition partners will have to prove ODM fear mongers wrong by
demonstrating that the power sharing arrangement will bring positive
change for ordinary Kenyans.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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