Scores of buses have been hired to ferry Cord supporters to Nairobi to welcome home their leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Mr Odinga, who has been in the US on a lecture tour that has lasted nearly three months will address a rally at Uhuru Park Saturday after he lands in the city. Many of the supporters are travelling from the opposition coalition’s strongholds at the coast and in western Kenya.
Thursday, the organizing committee was putting final touches to the preparations for the rally that received a go-ahead from the police on Wednesday after top level intervention that reversed a ban by Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo.
Cord leaders Farah Maalim, Jakoyo Midiwo, James Orengo and Junet Mohamed were upbeat, saying, they were expecting a big turnout at Uhuru Park.
Mr Odinga, who flew from the US on Wednesday morning, arrived in Dubai Thursday and is expected at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 1pm Saturday.
“We have put everything in place to ensure a successful event. We have secured the venue at Uhuru Park and we are expecting not less than one million people to attend,” Mr Maalim, who is the organising committee chairman, said.
Mr Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango said the Cord leader will address an international press conference at JKIA before driving to Uhuru Park.
PEACE WILL PREVAIL
Mr Maalim, Mr Midiwo and Mr Mohamed urged the police to provide security for the thousands of supporters expected at the rally as they promised that peace will prevail at the event.
“We expect a peaceful rally. The State must keep us secure because it is its duty to provide security,” Mr Midiwo, the Cord chief whip in the National Assembly, said, adding, “We want to tell Baba (Mr Odinga) all the ills that have happened while he was away.”
Mr Mohamed said they will neither engage in hate speech nor ethnic slaying and invited members of the Jubilee coalition to the rally which, he said, will address issues facing Kenyans.
“It will be a mammoth rally, which will address itself to issues that matter. All are welcome, including our brothers and sisters in Jubilee,” he said.
The coalition was spending modestly on the rally, he said, adding that no money is being spent to buy crowds as there was none.
“We only have Sh250,000 to spend on this event. This money has been raised through donations by our members. We have borrowed a public address system from one of our members and the rest will go into logistics” he said.
Uncertainty clouded the rally on Tuesday after Mr Kimaiyo banned all weekend public gatheringsin Nairobi, citing insecurity based on intelligence reports. But the ban was reversed on Wednesday morning, reportedly on the intervention of State House.
SHORTAGE OF BUSES
In Kisumu Thursday, hundreds of Mr Odinga’s supporters hired buses to ferry them to the rally. Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura said politicians from the region had hired the buses.
“We are doing our best to ensure that Kisumu residents are well represented in the rally to be addressed by our party leader,” he said as he refused to disclose the number of buses that were hired. Some supporters complained that there might be a shortage of buses.
Taxi operators and bus managers said they had been receiving a number of group bookings since Monday.
“We have increased our transport charges from Sh800 to Sh1,200 because the number of passengers travelling to Nairobi has doubled,” Kisumu matatu operator Michael Munyendo said.
‘‘We can’t deny that we are cashing in to earn more money,” he said.
In the North Rift, ODM and Ford Kenya parties also hired buses while other supporters will use private means to travel to Nairobi.
“Almost all delegates and majority of Cord supporters are expected to attend the meeting in large numbers,” Uasin Gishu ODM secretary Charles Tanui said.
ODM officials from Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet counties Thursday met at an Eldoret hotel to finalise travel arrangements.
Similar arrangements took place in Nandi, West Pokot, Bungoma counties. Some of the supporters left for the city rally two days ago.
In Trans Nzoia, Ford Kenya chairman Ferdinand Wanyonyi said they will ferry their supporters to the rally.
Security will be tight at the venue, with more than 1,000 police officers stationed in Uhuru Park.
They will be drawn from the Kenya Police Service, the Administration Police, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the Traffic Department and the National Intelligence Service.
Police sniffer dogs and horses will also be used.
Security officers will start clearing the venue Friday, hours before the function. All the persons attending the rally will be screened before being allowed into the venue.
Nairobi deputy county police commander Moses Ombati said that all vehicles will be parked at a designated area after being searched.
Reports by Bernard Namunane, Isaac Ongiri (The Daily Nation)