The snubbing of Opposition chief Raila Odinga at today’s Madaraka Day national celebration sparked a backlash against the government on social media.
The National Super Alliance (Nasa) presidential candidate, however, refused to blame President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto for it.
Mr Odinga had attended the event — meant to mark the 54th anniversary of Kenya’s attainment of internal self-rule from the British colonial government — at the invitation of the government.
He sat next to National Police Service Commission chairman Johnson Kavuludi during the function in Nyeri County.
However, only Nyeri Governor Samuel Wamathai and Mr Ruto spoke, before President Kenyatta addressed the nation and the Head of State neither acknowledged nor greeted him.
Contacted over the snub, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader, who had arrived at Kabiru-ini Stadium mid-morning to cheering crowds, said he had played his role by turning up for the national day celebration.
“I received an invitation to attend the national day celebrations and I honoured it. It was their responsibility (to recognise me), Mr Odinga said on phone later.
“I leave it to the people to judge the way they (government) handled the issue. I don’t want to appear to be complaining.
“Hiyo ni shauri yao (It is up to them). The problem is theirs. This was not supposed to be a Jubilee affair. Honestly, I would have done it differently.”
The reaction to the snub on social media was instant.
@Chriss_Kush said failing to appreciate Raila’s presence was ignorance and lacked nobility. But lawyer Jenniffer Shamalla argued that it was a State event and protocol was followed.
“Uhuru has invited Raila several times to speak in public. I suppose this being a State function protocol is observed,” Ms Shamalla tweeted.
DOERS VS CRITICS
President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto used the celebrations to tell Kenyans what their Jubilee government has achieved and urged voters to give them another term of five years to complete their work.
The President cited the standard gauge railway, which he launched on Wednesday, connection of six million Kenyans to electricity, improving service delivery through Huduma Centres and increased student enrolment in schools and colleges among other feats.
Mr Ruto said the August elections will be between a government that had delivered on its pledges against an Opposition whose campaign was based on grievances.
However, the veteran politician faulted the duo, saying the event should have been used to preach national unity and remember freedom heroes.
“This should never have been used as a campaign platform, where one party campaigns for re-election,” Mr Odinga said.
He argued that some of the achievements they were pitching, such as the SGR, were conceived during the Grand Coalition Government, which was headed by former President Mwai Kibaki with him as the Prime Minister.
This fact, he said, was largely ignored.