As the local cameras canvased every face on the stage and the international lens stayed focused on Bashir, all Kenyans in attendance were watching one man.
It makes a statement when your entrance causes noticeably more cheer than that of the President of a nation. Say what you will about Raila Odinga, the people love him and swear by his every word.
So much so that he couldn’t even read his Oath of Allegiance without the crowd punctuating every comma with a cheer and every sentence break with an ovation. It was a sight to behold: every which way he strolled, dignitaries reached out to shake his hand. In the distant crowds, grown men and woman, jumping out of their seats reaching towards the man as though he were not hundreds of metres away and could indeed somehow reach out and touch them back. All this as he calmly waltzed the stage, commanding more power with every step. You would soon forget that he had just had brain surgery. You would even sooner forget that a certain Mr. Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic, was actually the most important man on that stage.
More important, Yes. More powerful, maybe. But when it comes to popularity in Kenya, Tinga sets the bar way too high to conceptually comprehend. Put it this way, if there were a Solar Eclipse right now and this man climbed on stage and began talking about it, the rest of the world would witness the eclipse; we’d hear about it from Odinga. He is a veritable force of nature. This is evidenced by the roars that follow every entrance he makes, the fact that he clocked in as a higher ranking trending topic on twitter than both Kenya and Bashir. And maybe even the fact that, two years out, a lot of people have already decided that he’s going to walk away with the elections.
I wasn’t around for the 2007 elections. In fact, at the time they were going on, I was pinballing between Europe and the US, trying to make some money. So it was that I spoke with a Kenyan colleague in Germany who said something to me that I will never forget. Before the post-election violence even erupted, he said: “People won’t just vote for this man, they will do whatever he says. Win or lose, his power is scary.” True to this fact, we’ve witnessed him shepherding the nation, time and time again, and then walking away as though all he did was raise a finger.
So for as much as we are celebrating a New Constitution and a New Kenya as we march towards our chance at new leadership in 2012, it seems that our government will yet again been headed by familiar faces.
Perhaps the most familiar face in the land.
It’s his country; we just live in it.